Everyone should have a vested interest in protecting their health as much as possible. A key component of that is prevention, meaning decreasing risk for potential future health issues. As men age, one concern should always be prostate health. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Regular blood tests can monitor prostate specific antigen, or PSA, to make sure the level is in the normal range. But is that truly enough?
The current standard is that a PSA of under 4 dl/ml bears minimal risk of prostate cancer. If your PSA is between 4 and 10 dl/ml, you have a 25% or one in four chance of having prostate cancer. However, 15% (or more than one in six) men with a PSA of less than 4 already have prostate cancer. Therefore, it may be slightly risky to assume that you are safe just because your labs show that your PSA is within the normal range. You may have to look a little deeper for true peace of mind (and better evidence).
Studies through Harvard, Johns Hopkins and UCLA have shown that Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) is a peptide that controls the action of growth hormones in the body.
If IGF-1 is elevated, men were four times more likely to develop prostate cancer. And this test is so powerful that when the men developed prostate cancer seven years later, the PSA had just started to turn positive!
It looks like the IGF-1 test can give you advanced warning 7 years earlier than the commonly used PSA screening. That could be a real lifesaver, as an estimated 90 men will die of prostate cancer in the next 24 hours based on current statistics. SO, if you have the IGF-1 test run and it comes back elevated, what should you do?
One beneficial nutrient that seems to hold promise is the nutritional supplement, lycopene. Lycopene is a plant nutrient with strong antioxidant properties. It is the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color. It also happens to be one of the most powerful inhibitors of the IGF-1.
This potent nutrient not only effectively controls IGF-1 but has been shown to protect and secure the normal communication between cells which may have been damaged by environmental chemicals like pesticides. When this communication is affected, the cells have the potential to grow out of control leading to an increase risk of cancer. The good news is that lycopene has been found to control this and stop cancer cell growth. Lycopene administered as a pure compound has been studied in clinical trials at dosages of 8 to 75 mg/day. Dosage needs may vary by individual and should be discussed with a health care provider.
Looking for a boost of lycopene in your diet? Try adding tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, asparagus and red cabbage.
And even if you don’t have a prostate (ladies…), these foods are still good for you too!