National Cancer Institute


Expert-reviewed information summary about the use of nutrition and dietary supplements for reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer.

This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the use of nutrition and dietary supplements for reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.

Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") is the date of the most recent change. The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board.

Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, & Supplements

Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements

Introduction

Men in the United States get prostate cancer more than any other type of cancer except skin cancer. It is found mainly in older men. In the United States, about one out of five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die of it.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a form of treatment used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. CAM treatments generally are not considered standard medical approaches. Standard treatments go through a long and careful research process to prove they are safe and effective, but less is known about most types of CAM.

CAM use among prostate cancer patients is reported to be common. CAM treatments used by prostate cancer patients include certain foods, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, and minerals.

This PDQ summary gives general information about using foods and dietary supplements to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer, its symptoms, or side effects of disease treatment. In addition, this summary has sections for several specific foods or dietary supplements:

  • Calcium
  • Green Tea
  • Lycopene
  • Modified Citrus Pectin
  • Pomegranate
  • Selenium
  • Soy
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Combination Therapies
  • Other Prostate Health Supplements

More topics will be added over time. Note: A separate PDQ summary on PC-SPES is also available.

These sections include the following information for each food or dietary supplement:

Overview of CAM Use in Prostate Cancer

Studies of CAM use to treat prostate cancer have shown the following:

  • Men who have prostate cancer are more likely to take dietary supplements than men who do not have prostate cancer.
  • Prostate cancer patients with the healthiest eating habits (for example, eating lots of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vegetables) are the most likely to take dietary supplements.
  • Reasons given by prostate cancer patients for using CAM treatments include boosting the immune system, improving quality of life, and lowering the risk of the cancer coming back.

Studies of CAM use to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or to prevent it from coming back have shown the following:

  • A study of men with a family history of prostate cancer found that over half used vitamins or other dietary supplements, including those sold for prostate health or cancer prevention, such as some of those listed in this summary.
  • A study of men at a prostate cancer screening clinic found that well over half took multivitamins and a smaller number took herbal supplements.
  • A study of prostate cancer survivors found that up to one-third took vitamins or minerals.
  • Although many prostate cancer patients use CAM therapies, only about half of them tell their doctors about their use of CAM.

Studies of why prostate cancer patients do or don't decide to use CAM show that their choice is based on many factors, including their medical history, their beliefs about the safety and side effects of CAM compared to standard treatments, and their need to feel in control of their treatment.

See the PDQ summary on Prostate Cancer Prevention for more information on prostate cancer prevention.

Questions and Answers About Calcium

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Green Tea

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Lycopene

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Modified Citrus Pectin

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Pomegranate

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Selenium

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Soy

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Vitamin D

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Vitamin E

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Combination Therapies

Pomi-T (Pomegranate, Green Tea, Broccoli, and Turmeric)

Polyphenols are compounds found in many plants and give some flowers, fruits, and vegetables their color. Polyphenols have antioxidant activity that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

A food supplement (Pomi-T) that is high in polyphenols was studied in a group of men who had prostate cancer that had not spread. This supplement contained a combination of the following:

These ingredients were raw, dry, plant-based powders, and one plant extract, that were not standardized (a standardized herbal supplement has one or more active ingredients measured in a specific amount, so that the product is the same from batch to batch).

In a randomized clinical trial, 199 men were given either Pomi-T or a placebo for 6 months. Before the study began, slightly less than half of the men had rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels after being treated with local therapy, and slightly more than half of the men were on active surveillance (not yet treated). In the Pomi-T group, median PSA levels rose much less than in the group that took the placebo. The food supplement was well tolerated and there were no marked differences reported in adverse effects between supplement and placebo groups. However, patients in the supplement group were more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., more gas and loose bowels).

Lycopene, Selenium, and Green Tea

A randomized clinical trial of a supplement containing lycopene, selenium, and green tea catechins enrolled men with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN). Patients who received the supplement were found to have higher rates of prostate cancer when they had a repeat biopsy after 6 months compared to those who did not receive the supplement. Since this may be due to cancers missed at the start of the study, more research is needed.

Lycopene and Other Therapies

A randomized study enrolled 79 patients who were scheduled to undergo prostatectomy. For 3 weeks before the procedure, the men were assigned to consume either: 1) tomato products containing lycopene; 2) tomato products plus selenium, omega 3-fatty acids, soy isoflavones, grape/pomegranate juice, and green/black tea; or 3) a control diet. There were no differences in PSA values between the nutrition-based groups and the control group. However, lower PSA values were found in men with intermediate risk prostate cancer who consumed the tomato products and in patients with the highest increases in lycopene levels.

Questions and Answers About Zyflamend

Other Prostate Health Supplements

Overview

Many widely available dietary supplements are marketed to support prostate health. African Cherry () and beta-sitosterol are two related supplements that have been studied as possible prostate cancer treatments. Note: A separate PDQ summary on PC-SPES is also available.

African Cherry / P. africanum

African cherry or is a tree that grows in tropical climates. It is found in a number of African countries including Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Nigeria. Bark from the tree was used by African tribes to relieve urinary symptoms and stomach pain. In the 18th century, European travelers learned from South African tribes that could treat bladder discomfort and “old man’s disease” (enlarged prostate).

Since 1969, bark extracts from have been available as prescription drugs in Europe and have been widely used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The bark contains a number of compounds including fatty acids and phytosterols (e.g., beta-sitosterol). The bark is processed and purified as an extract.

Laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that two substances in bark extract from are active in blocking cells from taking up androgen. The antiandrogen activity found in is at a markedly lower concentration than the antiandrogen activity found in flutamide (an anticancer drug).

Beta-Sitosterol

Beta-sitosterol is a member of the phytosterol family of phytochemicals and is widely found in plant life in different amounts. It is found in African cherry (), saw palmetto (), and various nuts, beans, and seeds. It is one of several phytosterols (plant sterols) that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, limit the amount of cholesterol that can be absorbed from the diet and they are being studied for their potential to protect against cardiovascular disease. Beta-sitosterol is very poorly absorbed by the body.

Studies suggest that phytosterols may have anticancer activity, but their exact actions are unknown. Phytosterols may affect immune and hormonal systems or may directly target cell cycles and cause cell death in tumors.

Laboratory studies have shown that high concentrations of beta-sitosterol markedly slow the growth of human prostate cancer cells and cause cancer cell death.

About This PDQ Summary

About PDQ

Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.

PDQ is a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH is the federal government’s center of biomedical research. The PDQ summaries are based on an independent review of the medical literature. They are not policy statements of the NCI or the NIH.

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the use of nutrition and dietary supplements for reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.

Reviewers and Updates

Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") is the date of the most recent change.

The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board.

Clinical Trial Information

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Clinical trials are listed in PDQ and can be found online at NCI's website. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Permission to Use This Summary

PDQ is a registered trademark. The content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text. It cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless the whole summary is shown and it is updated regularly. However, a user would be allowed to write a sentence such as “NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks in the following way: [include excerpt from the summary].”

The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated . Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/prostate-supplements-pdq. Accessed . [PMID: 26389501]

Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use in the PDQ summaries only. If you want to use an image from a PDQ summary and you are not using the whole summary, you must get permission from the owner. It cannot be given by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the images in this summary, along with many other images related to cancer can be found in Visuals Online. Visuals Online is a collection of more than 2,000 scientific images.

Disclaimer

The information in these summaries should not be used to make decisions about insurance reimbursement. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.

Contact Us

More information about contacting us or receiving help with the Cancer.gov website can be found on our Contact Us for Help page. Questions can also be submitted to Cancer.gov through the website’s E-mail Us.

General CAM Information

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—also called integrative medicine—includes a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. A therapy is generally called complementary when it is used in addition to conventional treatments; it is often called alternative when it is used instead of conventional treatment. (Conventional treatments are those that are widely accepted and practiced by the mainstream medical community.) Depending on how they are used, some therapies can be considered either complementary or alternative. Complementary and alternative therapies are used in an effort to prevent illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms, or control or cure disease.

Unlike conventional treatments for cancer, complementary and alternative therapies are often not covered by insurance companies. Patients should check with their insurance provider to find out about coverage for complementary and alternative therapies.

Cancer patients considering complementary and alternative therapies should discuss this decision with their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as they would any type of treatment. Some complementary and alternative therapies may affect their standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment.

Evaluation of CAM Therapies

It is important that the same scientific methods used to test conventional therapies are used to test CAM therapies. The National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) are sponsoring a number of clinical trials (research studies) at medical centers to test CAM therapies for use in cancer.

Conventional approaches to cancer treatment have generally been studied for safety and effectiveness through a scientific process that includes clinical trials with large numbers of patients. Less is known about the safety and effectiveness of complementary and alternative methods. Few CAM therapies have been tested using demanding scientific methods. A small number of CAM therapies that were thought to be purely alternative approaches are now being used in cancer treatment—not as cures, but as complementary therapies that may help patients feel better and recover faster. One example is acupuncture. According to a panel of experts at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting in November 1997, acupuncture has been found to help control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and pain related to surgery. However, some approaches, such as the use of laetrile, have been studied and found not to work and to possibly cause harm.

The NCI Best Case Series Program which was started in 1991, is one way CAM approaches that are being used in practice are being studied. The program is overseen by the NCI’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Health care professionals who offer alternative cancer therapies submit their patients’ medical records and related materials to OCCAM. OCCAM carefully reviews these materials to see if any seem worth further research.

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM

When considering complementary and alternative therapies, patients should ask their health care provider the following questions:

  • What side effects can be expected?
  • What are the risks related to this therapy?
  • What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
  • Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Will the therapy affect conventional treatment?
  • Is this therapy part of a clinical trial?
  • If so, who is the sponsor of the trial?
  • Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?

To Learn More About CAM

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilitates research and evaluation of complementary and alternative practices, and provides information about a variety of approaches to health professionals and the public.

  • NCCIH Clearinghouse
  • Post Office Box 7923 Gaithersburg, MD 20898–7923
  • Telephone: 1-888-644-6226 (toll free)
  • TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Website: https://nccih.nih.gov

NCCIH and the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) jointly developed CAM on PubMed, a free and easy-to-use search tool for finding CAM-related journal citations. As a subset of the NLM's PubMed bibliographic database, CAM on PubMed features more than 230,000 references and abstracts for CAM-related articles from scientific journals. This database also provides links to the websites of over 1,800 journals, allowing users to view full-text articles. (A subscription or other fee may be required to access full-text articles.)

The NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) coordinates the activities of the NCI in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). OCCAM supports CAM cancer research and provides information about cancer-related CAM to health providers and the general public via the NCI website.

U.S. residents may call the NCI Cancer Information Service toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates drugs and medical devices to ensure that they are safe and effective.

  • Food and Drug Administration
  • 10903 New Hampshire Avenue
  • Silver Spring, MD 20993
  • Telephone: 1-888-463-6332 (toll free)
  • Website: http://www.fda.gov

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws. Publications available from the FTC include:

  • Consumer Response Center
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • Washington, DC 20580
  • Telephone: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (toll free)
  • TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 202-326-2502
  • Website: http://www.ftc.gov

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