Nutrition and Prostate Cancer

Look to Fruit, Veggies for Cancer-fighting Phytochemicals

Naturally occurring plant chemicals, called phytochemicals, are being increasingly studied for their potential role as anticancer agents. Evaluations of phytochemical sources such as apples, onions, garlic, cranberries, and tomatoes have found that these foods all have anticancer capabilities:

  • Quercetin is a type of phytochemical called a flavonoid. A study on the effect of quercetin on prostate cancer cells found that this natural flavonoid inhibited the expression of the androgen receptor protein, which is involved in the development and progression of prostate cancer. When expression of these proteins is reduced, the cancer is less stimulated to grow. Quercetin, already a popular natural treatment for allergies, is found in whole foods such as cabbage, cranberries, kale, pears, grapes, apples, onions, and garlic, and is also available as a supplement.[1]
  • Garlic, long known for its beneficial sulfur compounds, has also been the focus of some recent prostate cancer research. Garlic supports the immune system by killing viruses, bacteria, and fungus, and its sulfur compounds may also possess anti-prostate cancer properties. One study demonstrated that a natural component of garlic, called S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC), produces changes in biomarkers (including PSA) and testosterone activity—alterations that are similar to those produced by another proven approach to prostate cancer treatment, androgen deprivation.[2]
  • Cranberries are another commonly available whole food with potential anticancer benefits. The phytochemicals contained in cranberries include flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins), and polyphenols. A 2004 study reported that these naturally occurring chemicals work together (synergistically) to stop the progression of prostate cancer cells.[3]
  • The 2004 study was followed by another study that found that the flavonoids in cranberry extract inhibited cancer cell growth by 50 percent.[4]

Some of the most recent and perhaps most promising studies on the anticancer activity of whole foods involve lycopene, the carotenoid in tomatoes that accounts for their red color. These studies suggest that consuming whole, cooked tomatoes may protect against prostate cancer and provide anticancer activity. In a study conducted in 2005, cancer patients ate tomato sauce on pasta for just three weeks before their PSA levels were retested and compared to baseline. Patients experienced a significant reduction in blood levels of PSA, indicating that the cancer progression was slowed or stopped. The researchers also reported that cancer cells were dying at a rapid rate. They believe that other phytochemicals in the tomatoes may be acting synergistically with the lycopene to produce these effects. If this is true, then such results may only be possible if whole organic tomato products are consumed, rather than supplements.[5]

In addition to possible anticancer benefits, the tomato is also an excellent source of nutrients, including folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, and various other carotenoids. They also contain phytochemicals called polyphenols, which may also be associated with lower cancer risk.[6],[7]

The results of these studies indicate that there is potential for anti-prostate cancer activity by consuming foods rich in these phytochemicals, such as apples, garlic, cranberries, and tomatoes. Patients with prostate cancer or prostate cancer survivors may wish to consider including raw or cooked apples, cooked onion, cooked garlic, cooked tomatoes, and cranberry juice as part of their regular intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Phytochemical-Rich Recipes

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes and Sausage

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken apple sausages*, chopped
1 28 oz can organic diced tomatoes
1 16 oz package whole wheat penne pasta
8 oz crumbled feta

Cook penne according to the directions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and sausage and sauté another five minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until heated. Add the cooked penne and sprinkle in the feta or serve it on the side.
*If possible, choose a sausage made from organic chemical and hormone-free chicken meat.

Apple Crisp

4 large apples, peeled and sliced
1 t cinnamon
½ C whole wheat flour
½ C brown sugar
1 C rolled oats
½ C butter*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8-inch-round pan. Peel and slice the apples and toss with cinnamon. Mix flour, sugar, oats, and butter until crumbly. Put the apples in the 8-inch pan and cover them with the oat mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Butter can be reduced to ¼ cup for less fat and fewer calories if desired.

Cranberry Cooler

Mix equal parts carbonated water with cranberry extract. If you can’t find liquid cranberry extract at your local market, there are many online sources*. If you prefer a sweeter drink, add ½ cup white grape juice or other naturally sweet fruit juice. A slice of lemon is also makes a refreshing addition.


[1] Xing N, Chen Y, Mitchell SH, Young CY. Quercetin inhibits the expression and function of the androgen receptor in LNCaP prostate cancer cells. Carcinogenesis. 2001 Mar;22(3):409-14.

[2] Pinto JT, Qiao C, Xing J, Suffoletto BP, Schubert KB, Rivlin RS, Huryk RF, Bacich DJ, and Heston WD . Alterations of prostate biomarker expression and testosterone utilization in human LNCaP prostatic carcinoma cells by garlic-derived S-allylmercaptocysteine. Prostate. 2000 Dec 1;45(4):304-14.

[3] 0 Seeram NP, Adams LS, Hardy ML, and Heber D . Total cranberry extract versus its phytochemical constituents: antiproliferative and synergistic effects against human tumor cell lines. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 May 5;52(9):2512-7.

[4] Ferguson PJ, Kurowska E, Freeman DJ, Chambers AF, and Koropatnick DJ . A flavonoid fraction from cranberry extract inhibits proliferation of human tumor cell lines. J Nutr. 2004 Jun;134(6):1529-35.

[5] Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M , Bowen PE . Role of lycopene and tomato products in prostate health. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 May 30;1740(2):202-5.

[6] Campbell JK, Canene-Adams K, Lindshield BL, Boileau TW, Clinton SK, Erdman JW Jr. Tomato phytochemicals and prostate cancer risk. J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134 (12 Suppl):3486S-3492S.

[7] Hantz HL, Young LF, Martin KR. Physiologically attainable concentrations of lycopene induce mitochondrial apoptosis in LNCaP human prostate cancer cells. Exp Biol Med ( Maywood ). 2005 Mar;230(3):171-9.