Skin cancer is considered the most common type of cancerous disease among both men and women. In the male population, prostate cancer falls just under skin cancer.
As the second most common cancer in men, almost 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year1. These statistics only account for the male population in the United States. Over 30,000 U.S. adult men also die each year due to prostate cancer.
No cure exists for prostate cancer, but there are ways to eliminate the tumor cells from the prostate gland effectively.
Researchers constantly try to find ways to kill cancerous cells in the prostate gland. New research has surfaced, suggesting that mushrooms could reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
A recent study in the International Journal of Cancer2 has suggested that men could potentially reduce their risk of prostate cancer with mushroom intake. The review was conducted as a pooled analysis of two previous studies.
One of the primary reasons why mushrooms were chosen is due to their cost. Many “superfoods” supplements that are suggested for cancer prevention can be quite costly.
This makes it harder for the average male patient to gain access to these products. Mushrooms are generally considered inexpensive. This food is also widely available in supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and many other locations.
Furthermore, mushrooms are also common foods. Millions of people consume them. Not only do people consume this inexpensive food, but they are also considered a tasty addition to a significant variety of dishes.
Recently, many studies have started to focus on mushrooms. Several findings have already been made related to this food.
Health Benefits Of Mushrooms
Research is increasingly looking at ways that natural products can help improve health. Mushrooms are one particularly exciting research topic.
There are several types of mushrooms. Some mushrooms can be dangerous.
It is often considered challenging to identify poisonous mushrooms. This is because they seem very similar to the mushrooms that are widely consumed by the general population. Eating mushrooms that are poisonous can be damaging to a person’s health.
Popular types of mushrooms that are generally considered healthy include:
- Portobello mushrooms
- Enoki mushrooms
- Reishi mushroom
- Beech mushrooms
- White button mushrooms
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Oyster mushrooms
- Crimini mushrooms
- Maitake mushrooms
- Lingzhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum
When it comes to the health benefits of mushrooms, looking at the nutritional content is a priority. These foods are high in many nutrients. The nutrients are essential for a person’s general well-being.
Mushrooms are known to be high in antioxidants. These are compounds found in some foods that fight free radicals in the human body. Free radicals have been linked to inflammation. They can also cause other problems, such as a weaker immune system.
Additionally, there is a link between free radicals and cancer. The antioxidant effects of mushrooms help to counter the effects of free radicals in a person’s body.
Selenium is the primary antioxidant that a mushroom possesses. This is a type of mineral that is essential for various functions in the body.
There are several other potential health benefits of eating mushrooms. We should look at the chemicals found in mushrooms to better understand these possible benefits.
- Beta-glucan: A dietary fiber has shown to assist in improving cardiovascular health. Beta-glucan may also provide an improvement in cholesterol levels3. Blood sugar regulation is improved with beta-glucan, which may assist in lowering the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Shiitake mushrooms contain a significant amount of beta-glucan. The same applies to oyster mushrooms.
- Copper: Mushroom contains copper. This is a chemical that is essential for the production of red blood cells. These cells ensure oxygen is delivered to all tissue in the body. Other processes rely on copper too. The mineral helps to maintain the function of nerves. Bones also rely on copper to remain healthy.
- Potassium: Another critical element that the body needs. Potassium is essential for heart health. The electrolyte also helps to keep muscles functioning as they should. Furthermore, nerve function also relies on potassium.
Mushrooms also contain B vitamins. These are critical vitamins that play several roles in the body. Depending on the specific vitamin B in question, these are some functions that they serve:
- Red blood cell production
- Digestive health
- Maintenance of healthy skin
- Nervous system function
- Hormone production
These are, of course, only a few ways that mushrooms help to benefit the body. These effects and potential medicinal properties are already quite impressive.
Mushrooms And Prostate Cancer Risk
The 2019 study that links mushrooms to a reduced prostate cancer list is not the first of its kind. There have been previous studies that showed an anti-cancer effect when looking at mushrooms.
In March 2012, a review paper was published by the Lovely Professional University in India4.
The research paper described the latest advancements made in terms of research related to mushrooms. In particular, researchers behind the review paper focuses on the anti-cancer effects of medicinal mushrooms.
The study explains that these effects have already been associated with mushroom consumption:
The antioxidant activity presented by mushrooms is a primary focal point in terms of its anti-cancer effects. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants. These compounds protect the body against free radicals.
Several publications have focused on how antioxidants are critical in the prevention of cancers5. These are highly reactive chemicals.
Free radicals cause damage to cells in the human body. These chemicals are naturally part of the human body. They form due to various factors, with stress being just one single contributing element.
The damage that free radicals cause to cells eventually harms a person’s DNA. The collective effect is what then leads to an increased risk of cancer. Free radicals have also been linked to an increase in inflammatory triggers. Several other health conditions have been linked to free radicals in the body.
The antioxidant properties of mushrooms fight against free radicals. This helps to reduce the impact of free radicals in the body. In turn, there may be a reduced risk of cancer developing in the individual. This accounts for various types of cancers – including prostate cancer.
The 2019 study on mushrooms was the first to focus specifically on prostate cancer. It was previously found that mushrooms may possess anti-tumor properties. This leads to a positive effect on cancerous cells in the body.
Researchers were interested in discovering whether mushrooms would be effective at reducing the risk of prostate cancer specifically. Data from two previous studies were analyzed by the researchers who were part of this review paper:
- Miyagi Cohort Study
- Ohsaki Cohort Study
A total of 36,499 men were involved in the studies analyzed by these researchers. All men were Japanese. They were aged between 40 and 79.
The studies followed the men for over a decade to determine trends related to prostate cancer, specifically. The idea was to determine what may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Researches also wanted to identify potential ways to reduce the risk of this cancerous disease.
The data about men in these studies were divided into five different groups. The assignment to these groups was based on the consumption of mushrooms.
The groups were as follow:
- 6.9% of participants “almost never” consumed mushrooms
- 36.8% of participants consumed mushrooms once or twice per month
- 36.0% of participants consumed mushrooms up to two times per week
- 15.7% of participants consumed mushrooms frequently, up to four times each week
- 4.6% of participants claimed to consume mushrooms almost each day
- During the 10+ years in which participants were analyzed, 3.3% of the male patients were affected by prostate cancer. This calculated for 1,204 prostate cancer cases.
Findings were made that suggested mushrooms could reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Consuming mushrooms up to two times a week may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by about 8%
- There may be a 17% lower risk of prostate cancer when eating mushrooms up to four times a week
Researchers did control for several other factors. This was important since there are many elements linked to prostate cancer. Controlling factors taken into account include:
- Cancer risk based on family medical history
- The use of tobacco products
- The consumption of alcohol
- Coffee intake
Limitations And Questions
The reduced risk of prostate cancer associated with mushrooms is impressive. It holds promise as a way to even further reduce a man’s likeliness of developing prostate cancer.
There are, however, some limitations noted among current studies looking at mushrooms for cancer.
Particularly, there wasn’t a significant difference between prostate cancer incidence among various groups that the researchers looked at.
- 3.42% of men who ate the fewest mushrooms affected by prostate cancer
- 3.11% of men who ate the most mushrooms affected by prostate cancer
The difference between these two groups was only 0.31%. Thus, even though there does seem to be a reduced risk of prostate cancer, the current evidence is still somewhat limited.
The majority of the results were also identified in male patients who were 50 years or older. Thus, the use of mushrooms might not potentially be as effective in younger male patients.
Researchers did note that prostate cancer is extremely rare in young men. This might be one reason for the increased age that was involved in the findings of the study.
Furthermore, the study also took advantage of the dietary information that was self-reported by the patients. This type of data is not always considered reliable.
Moreover, the study monitored the participants for a period of more than ten years. Yet, dietary intake data were only asked at the beginning of the study. The dietary habits of these individuals could likely have changed over the course of the decade.
No data was available on specific mushroom species too. This makes it difficult to provide a view on which mushrooms men should eat to experience this reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Dietary Changes That Can Lower Risk Of Prostate Cancer
Apart from mushrooms, other dietary changes may also affect the risk of prostate cancer.
Some foods have been found to potentially lead to the development of cancerous cells in the prostate. Other foods, however, may help to fight against the formation of prostate cancer.
- A healthy, balanced diet is critical. Unhealthy foods can lead to obesity, similar to overeating. Obesity is a primary risk factor for prostate cancer.
- There also seems to be a relation between dairy consumption and prostate cancer. Men are generally advised to limit the number of dairy products they consume. Research has found that high dairy consumption could lead to a higher risk of prostate cancer.
- A large number of vegetables and fruits are advised. These foods are rich in nutrients the body requires. They also contain antioxidants. As explained earlier in this post, antioxidants play a crucial role in helping to reduce the risk and prevent prostate cancer. The antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables may help to fight against free radicals. This reduces cellular damage caused by free radicals.
- Reducing the intake of unhealthy fats can also help. This improves cardiovascular health too, and reduces a person’s risk of becoming obese.
Prostate cancer is a common disease among men. The condition can cause serious concern and sometimes spread to surrounding tissue. While highly treatable, advanced-stage prostate cancer can lead to life-threatening complications for men’s health.
Studies now suggest eating mushrooms may be linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Further studies are still needed for more accurate details on the effectiveness of mushrooms for prostate cancer.