A healthy diet and regular physical activity are important for general health and can help you stay a healthy weight. This may be particularly important if you've been diagnosed with prostate cancer, as there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of getting prostate cancer that's aggressive (more likely to spread) or advanced (cancer that has spread outside the prostate). A healthy lifestyle can also help manage many of the side effects of treatments for prostate cancer.
We don't recommend any set diet or exercise programme. Instead we suggest ways to improve your overall health, including some changes that might help with your prostate cancer.
Why is a healthy lifestyle important?
A healthy lifestyle can give you more control over your health and help you to improve it. Lots of things can affect your health, including the following.
Staying a healthy weight can reduce your risk of many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. There is also strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of aggressive or advanced prostate cancer. So it may be particularly important for men with prostate cancer to stay a healthy weight.
Being a healthy weight may mean your prostate cancer is less likely to spread after surgery or radiotherapy. Hormone therapy may also be less effective if you are very overweight. Staying a healthy weight might also help you manage or reduce some of the side effects of treatments, such as urinary problems after surgery.
How do I know if I am a healthy weight?
Your body mass index (BMI) can be a good way to check if you are a healthy weight for your height. The NHS Choices website has information about how to work out your BMI.
Another way to check if you’re a healthy weight is to measure your waist size (circumference). You can work out your waist size by wrapping a tape measure around your body, half-way between the top of your hips and the bottom of your ribs. For a man, if your waist size is more than 94cm (37 inches), you have a higher risk of health problems and you might want to try to lose some weight.
It’s important to lose weight steadily by making healthy changes to your diet, and slowly increasing the amount of exercise you do. If you lose weight too quickly, your body may not get all the nutrients it needs, and you may put the weight back on again. See below for more information about healthy eating and physical activity.
Being underweight can also affect your health. For example, underweight men have a higher risk of bone thinning. Some types of hormone therapy can also cause bone thinning, so men on hormone therapy may be particularly at risk of bone thinning if they are also underweight.
Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about your weight. They can help you think about suitable changes to your diet or physical activity. They may be able to refer you to a dietitian. You can also get more information from other organisations.
A healthy diet is important for general health. It can help you stay a healthy weight and can lower your risk of some health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and some other cancers. Read more about healthy eating.
There are some foods that might be helpful for men with prostate cancer. For example, certain foods might help reduce the chance of prostate cancer spreading to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer). Other foods may help reduce or manage the side effects of treatment.
There are also some foods that you might want to eat less of, as they may be harmful for men with prostate cancer.
Physical activity is any movement of the body that uses energy. It doesn’t have to be a sport – it could be walking, swimming or gardening. Physical activity is important for general health and wellbeing. It can help you stay a healthy weight by using spare energy that the body would otherwise store as fat. Being a healthy weight may help to lower your risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Physical activity can also help with some of the side effects of treatment and help you cope with feelings of anxiety or depression. Some research suggests that physical activity may help slow down the growth of prostate cancer, although other studies haven’t found this.
We don’t know if alcohol has any specific effect on men with prostate cancer. But we do know that drinking too much alcohol can make you put on weight and causes health problems such as heart disease and some other cancers.
The government suggests that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day.
How many units of alcohol are in a drink?
- A pint of lager, beer or cider contains 2-3 units.
- A 175ml glass of wine contains about 2 units.
- A 25ml measure of 40 per cent single spirit with mixer contains 1 unit.
Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether alcohol will affect your prostate cancer treatment. If you have urinary problems after treatment, try to drink less alcohol. Alcohol can irritate the bladder and make urinary problems worse. NHS Choices has more information about managing how much you drink.
Smoking increases the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke and some other cancers. It may also be harmful for men with prostate cancer.
Some studies suggest that smoking may increase the chance that prostate cancer will grow and spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer). The more you smoke, the greater the risk.
If you smoke there is also a greater chance that your prostate cancer will come back after surgery or radiotherapy. And heavy smoking may mean you’re more likely to die from prostate cancer. But if you stop smoking, your risk should start to drop – and after 10 years it could be as low as men who have never smoked.
Stopping smoking can also help to reduce the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer. For example, you may be less likely to get certain urinary problems after radiotherapy if you don’t smoke. Smoking also increases your risk of bone thinning. If you’re having hormone therapy for your prostate cancer you’re already at risk of bone thinning, but stopping smoking will help reduce your overall risk.