By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
October 1, 2018
- The PSA controversy and what you must know
- PSA doesn’t actually test for cancer
- Eat your way to a healthy prostate
The never-ending debate over the virtues of PSA screenings is enough to make any man crazy.
For years and years it was considered the most important test for men’s health. In fact, if you’re in your 50s or 60s I’ll bet you’ve undergone numerous PSA screenings.
But over time, controversy struck. Analysts, scientists, researchers and other experts discovered a problem with PSA testing. They found that the screening may not necessarily save lives. More importantly, they determined that the risks of false positive testing might even outweigh any potential benefit.
As a result, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force placed screening decisions in the hands of the individual. These days they recommend that men between 55 and 69 years of age discuss it with their healthcare provider, and then make their own determination.
But now a panel of international experts goes so far as to advise against even offering routine PSA screening. In their own words, “the benefit is small and uncertain and there are clear harms”.
Some of those harms include overdiagnosis, overtreatment and unnecessary prostate biopsies. These can all result in urinary problems, sexual dysfunction and bowel disorders that can come as side effects of surgery or radiation therapy.
I’m glad the tide is finally turning because, seriously… are these problems you want to live with for the rest of your life?
Does PSA Actually Test for Cancer?
I don’t normally recommend regular PSA screening for prostate cancer, and for good reason.
You see, PSA is NOT a test for cancer. It’s simply a measure of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). It can’t tell you if you have cancer. It can’t tell you if you don’t. All it can really do, if positive, is trigger biopsies and other forms of follow-up.
But here’s the thing. Just like blood pressure readings, PSA levels fluctuate based on a variety of factors.
- Certain underlying conditions such as enlarged prostate (BPH), prostatitis or urinary tract infections can raise PSA.
- Having sex, riding your bike, diet changes and other external factors can cause a temporary increase in PSA.
- PSA levels can go up due to medications such as finasteride, statins and NSAIDs.
So an elevated PSA reading may or may not have anything at all to with the presence of prostate cancer.
What do I recommend?
Eat Your Way to a Healthy Prostate
I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my patients.
PSA testing is a personal decision. All it requires is a blood test, so it’s not invasive. However, a false positive can lead to some pretty rigorous, invasive and harmful follow-up. So, keep that in mind while weighing your options.
In the meantime, there are several measures that you can take to protect against prostate cancer.
One of your most powerful weapons is a group of vegetables referred to as “cruciferous” or “brassica” vegetables. These include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, turnips and watercress.
These veggies contain powerful phytonutrients called sulfuraphane and indoles that have anti-cancer properties. Just three or more servings a week can shrink your risk of prostate cancer by about 41%.
Pomegranate juice is another natural wonder when it comes to warding off prostate cancer. First, it lowers levels of inflammation that place you at risk for prostate cancer.
But more importantly, it can stop cancer cells from spreading…even kill them off.
Lycopene-rich tomatoes are great cancer fighters, too. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can slash the risk of prostate cancer by about a third. It’s also associated with low PSA levels.
Oddly enough, the lycopene in canned tomatoes is much more absorbable than that in the fresh fruit. Go for an organic brand that has a low salt content…or supplement with 6.5 mg of lycopene daily.
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts and wild-caught seafood can also cut your risk.
Don’t wait for prostate problems to arise. Adopt a prostate-healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of fresh, organic fruits, veggies, nuts and healthy fats. (And by the way… don’t forget to make exercise part of your daily routine.)
If you are testing your PSA and it’s elevated, and you and your doctor decide not to biopsy at that time, ask about retesting more frequently over a period of 4-6 months. If the levels are rising with each test, this is significant and further work up must be considered.
Tikkinen KAO, et al. Prostate cancer screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: a clinical practice guideline. BMJ 2018;362:k3581
Cohen JH, et al. Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jan 5;92(1):61-8
Wang L, et al. Pomegranate and its components as alternative treatment for prostate cancer. Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Aug 25;15(9):14949-66.
Fraser ML, et al. Lycopene and prostate cancer: emerging evidence.Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2005 Oct;5(5):847-54.