Did a Vegetarian Diet Cure a Prostate Cancer? I Need More Evidence.


Microscopic appearance of less (left) and more (right) prostate cancer.

“I went on a vegetarian diet and my prostate cancer is gone!”

That was the Facebook post in a prostate cancer support group I occasionally follow. My immediate thought? Sorry, but I disagree with you. Based on the evidence you posted with that click-baity headline, I don’t think there has been a miracle cure. You posted pictures of a lab order with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. And you followed up with a picture of a pathology report (something I know a bit about) of a set of prostate biopsies from 15 months later indicating no malignancy was found. I am happy for you, I really am, but it doesn’t mean your eating habits have cured you, or that going on a vegan diet will cure other people.

A bit of background on prostate cancer. Back in the “good old days” prostate cancer was diagnosed by your internist with a good old rectal exam, or when you were being evaluated for symptoms such as an abnormal bone fracture. Most likely those were aggressive cancers, with growth often stimulated by the male hormone testosterone. Treatment consisted of surgery, or radiation, or using medicine to block the testosterone effect, or surgical removal of the source of that hormone — yes, you know what that means.

Since the advent of the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test era in the 1990s (I am a believer) more prostate confined, less aggressive tumors are being identified.  And based on the patient’s age, medical status, and some “under the microscope” considerations, many men with these tumors are being offered active surveillance – no current treatment, but regular PSA check-ups and repeat biopsies every year or two. If repeat biopsies show a more angry looking tumor, treatment can be considered.

And if the repeat biopsies are negative? Does that mean cure? Nope. Prostate biopsies sample only a small fraction of the prostate gland. And repeat biopsies are never in exactly the same location as the previous biopsies. So a small tumor that was sampled on the first go-round might not be in the path of the biopsy needle 15 months later. It doesn’t mean the tumor has gone away, though the tumor most likely hasn’t significantly grown. Of course, that is great news for any patient, but it isn’t the same as a cure. Surveillance is still necessary.

Is your vegan diet good for you? Sure, there are health benefits. And perhaps removing meat from your diet has removed some factors that might stimulate tumor growth. So I would never tell you to give it up. But I believe that a vegan diet cures cancer as much as I believe another post I read on Facebook that day–the one that says a sixteen year old has invented a perfect test for cancer diagnosis. But that’s a story for another day!

The above is the opinion of the author and not UroPartners LLC.

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