7 easy things you can do to reduce your risk of prostate cancer

For many men, the thought of getting prostate cancer can be terrifying. Aside from skin cancer, it is the most common form of cancer found in men, according to the American Cancer Society. This year alone, an estimated 164,690 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men older than 50 and African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

It's important to note that prostate cancer isn't necessarily a death sentence: when caught early (i.e., before it has a chance to spread to other parts of the body), the 5-year survival rate is extremely high at 98 percent. But there are things you can do to significantly reduce your risk.

1) Eat less meat and dairy.

Studies have shown that men who eat foods high in animal fat, such as dairy and red meat, were more likely to develop prostate cancer. It’s important to note that these studies do not show that fattening foods actually cause prostate cancer; rather, they show there is a correlation between prostate cancer and consuming things like cheese or bacon. Nonetheless, oncologist Dr. David Wise of the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone advises patients to err on the side of caution and get most of their fat from avocados and nuts over animal products.

2) Eat your broccoli.

In terms of cancer-fighting foods, Wise says, “cruciferous vegetables really seem to keep popping out” as the most effective. These types of vegetables include broccoli and cauliflower, which contain a natural chemical that may prevent cancer from growing. According to Wise, this chemical is harmful to cancer cells but perfectly fine for other cells in our body. He says the evidence for eating cruciferous vegetables is the strongest in terms of prostate cancer-fighting foods.

3) Don’t smoke.

“Smoking is not just linked to lung cancer. It's also linked to prostate cancer,” Wise says. In particular, smoking is linked to aggressive forms of prostate cancer that are more likely to spread, he says. What’s more, a review of 24 studies looking at prostate cancer risk and smoking published in 2010 determined that guys who smoked the most had a 24 to 30 percent higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than nonsmokers, due to the more aggressive tumors associated with smoking. So do yourself a favor and quit today.

4) Avoid taking vitamin E supplements.

We typically think of vitamins as good things, but a 2014 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that taking too much vitamin E may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. As long as you're getting 15 mg of vitamin E a day from your diet, according to the National Institute of Health, you don't need to take any additional supplements. Supplementing “beyond what we would have in our normal diet would be a bad idea," says Wise.

5) Have safe sex.

Speaking of sex, using protection may lower your chances of developing prostate cancer. Sexually transmitted infections like cytomegalovirus and trichomoniasis have been linked to prostate cancer. The first is a type of herpes found in cancerous prostate tissue. Trichomoniasis, on the other hand, is a treatable virus that may have long-term effects. A study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found that men who had ever been infected with trichomoniasis had a 40 percent greater chance of developing prostate cancer.

6) Lose weight.

Years of research clearly shows that extra body weight is associated with an increased cancer risk, including aggressive forms of prostate cancer, writes the American Cancer Society. It’s not clear why excess fat is linked with cancer, but researchers theorize it may be because levels of certain hormones, e.g., insulin, estrogen and androgen, are reduced when people are at a healthy weight. The National Institute of Health’s Body Mass Index calculator can determine if you’re considered overweight or obese.

7) Exercise.

Research shows that staying active might prevent prostate cancer. In fact, Wise believes exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are the two single-best ways to reduce your prostate cancer risk. “I think that time, energy and funds should be invested into getting into healthy weight and getting into an exercise program,” he says.

How much should you work out?

“About two and a half hours of moderate exercise or about an hour and fifteen minutes a week of very intense exercise would be the minimum,” Wise recommends.