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Vegetable Fats May Lengthen Lives of Prostate Cancer Patients

Update Date: Jun 10, 2013 05:04 PM EDT

Eating vegetable fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil may significantly lengthen the lives of patients with prostate cancer.

A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine involved 4,577 men diagnosed with non- metastatic prostate cancer between 1986 and 2010.

Study results revealed that a total of 1,064 men died. Of those men, 31 percent died from cardiovascular disease, 21 percent from prostate cancer and about 21 percent from other cancers.

Researchers found that patients who had substituted 10 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates with vegetable fats were 29 percent less likely to die from prostate cancer over an eight-year period.  What's more, these men were also 26 percent less likely to die of other causes like heart disease.

Further analysis revealed that an extra serving or 1 ounce of nuts per day was equivalent to an 11 percent lower risk of death from any cause.  Researchers also found that an extra serving of oil-based dressing or 1 tablespoon per day was equivalent to a 29 percent lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer and a 26 percent lower risk of dying from all causes.

"Overall, our findings support counseling men with prostate cancer to follow a heart-healthy diet in which carbohydrate calories are replaced with unsaturated oils and nuts to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality," lead author Erin Richman said in a news release.

Researchers said this is the first study to look at the effect of fat consumption on the prostate cancer survival in men already diagnosed with the disease.  However, they note that the study only found an association and cannot prove a causal link between vegetable fat consumption and prostate cancer survival. 

Although the study took into account factors like age, body mass index, smoking, exercise, medical treatments and, researchers stressed there may be other factors that explain the link. They say more studies are needed on the potential benefits of healthy fats among prostate cancer patients.

Dr. Stephen Freedland, of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., wrote in an accompanying article that obesity is the only controllable factor known to be definitively linked to death from prostate cancer.

"Thus, avoiding obesity is essential," Freedland said, adding that the latest findings suggest replacing unhealthy foods with healthy fats may be one way to prevent obesity. However, he notes that more studies are needed to determine whether the newfound link is due to lower consumption of unhealthy foods or increased consumption of healthy foods.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men.  Prostate cancer usually grows slowing and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm.  However, some types of prostate cancer are aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

According to researchers, nearly 2.5 million men in the U.S. currently live with prostate cancer, and another quarter-million men will be diagnosed this year.

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