Prostate Cancer Facts: Lycopene Doesn't Help, Coffee Does
Q. I'm in good shape (run 10Ks, lift weights) but old enough (54) to worry about prostate cancer. I've heard men should eat lots of tomato sauce because cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, and lycopene fights prostate cancer. I thought, "Great! More pasta!" But last week my running buddy said that's wrong. Who's right? -- Jason, Chicago, IL
A. He's in front of you on this one. Bummer, huh? While lycopene is still believed to help fend off heart disease and some cancers, prostate cancer isn't one of them.
Initial lycopene research looked promising, but the vital follow-up studies on prostate cancer haven't panned out. At best, the results are mixed. Same goes for lycopene fighting prostate cancer if you already have it (we're glad you don't!). The data just isn't there. Here are some ways to minimize your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Does that mean you should stop eating marinara sauce (over whole-wheat pasta, of course)? Nope. There may be a combo of nutrients in cooked tomatoes, including lycopene, that's protective. It's just that lycopene alone isn't a silver bullet.
That said, there's something else that may cut your risk of prostate cancer (especially the most lethal kind): coffee. Why isn't clear yet, but it's not caffeine since both regular and decaf do the job. What may be at work: beneficial coffee compounds that reduce inflammation and regulate insulin, which could deter prostate cancer. As little as a cup a day helps but theres recent evidence that men who drink 6 cups daily -- regular or decaf -- have a 20% lower risk of all prostate cancers and a 60% lower risk of the really lethal form. Pretty impressive. Discover some more surprising benefits of coffee.
This isn't the first study to find a protective effect between coffee and prostate cancer, so that's encouraging. But it doesn't mean it's a done deal, as you just learned about lycopene. Still, if, like Dr. Mike, you love your java, drink up. And have fun being ahead of your running buddy on this one. In fact, you can one-up him: Mention that coffee also deters Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease, and type 2 diabetes.