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Colorful eats cut risk of some cancer
Colorful foods protect against prostate cancer

Date published: 10/15/2006


FAVORITE FOODS such as spaghetti sauce, ketchup and watermelon can cut the risk of prostate cancer, and so can other foods you may not have expected.

One in every six men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The disease mostly strikes older men, but men can take steps at all ages to reduce their risk. It's particularly important if prostate cancer runs in your family, although the cancer can strike even people who have no family history.

Some of the best foods for protecting against prostate cancer are delicious, colorful ones that have other health benefits as well.

Saucy, meaty cancer-fighters

Lycopene, the natural red chemical that colors tomatoes, guava, red grapefruit, papaya and watermelon, is a potent prostate cancer fighter, according to many American and international studies.

Fresh tomatoes are delicious, but don't despair when winter comes, because canned and tomato sauces are even richer in lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

Eating tomato sauce twice a week can cut the risk of prostate cancer by 33 percent, according to the nonprofit Prostate Cancer Foundation. They have a terrific free booklet about nutrition online at prostatecancerfoundation.org.

Be sure to eat your tomato sauce with a little bit of fat, whether you drizzle on a teaspoon of olive oil or pour the sauce over something that contains fat, such as cheese ravioli or chicken. That's because lycopene dissolves best in fat, and it's easier for your body to absorb it if you eat a little fat at the same meal.

Speaking of fat, the same fats that protect the heart seem to protect the prostate. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and herring contain healthy omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA. Men who had the highest levels of these fats in their blood had 26 percent lower rates of prostate cancer, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Scientists are not sure why, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh showed that omega-3 fats cause prostate cancer cells to die more quickly, at least in test-tube experiments.

In contrast, fats from animal products such as meat and the whole-fat dairy products seem to increase risk of both prostate cancer and heart disease, according to the British Journal of Nutrition.

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JENNIFER MOTL is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin.