(CNN) -- If you're one of the nearly 3 million men currently living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, listen up: A new study says what you eat makes a big difference as to how long you'll live with your cancer.
"There is currently very little evidence to counsel men living with prostate cancer on how they can modify their lifestyle to improve survival," said Jorge Chavarro, the study's senior author. "Our results suggest that a heart-healthy diet may benefit these men by specifically reducing their chances of dying of prostate cancer."
Chavarro and fellow researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health interviewed 926 men with nonmetastatic prostate cancer about their dietary habits over a five-year period. Prostate cancer is frequently slow-growing and nonaggressive and therefore has one of the highest survival rates of any type of cancer.
Two types of eating habits emerged: a "prudent" pattern that included a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans and other legumes, and a Western pattern made up of processed and red meats, high-fat dairy and refined grains such as often used in processed foods.
The study then followed the men over another 10 years to see how they did. They found men who ate mostly a Western diet of processed and high-fat foods had a 2½ times greater risk of dying from prostate cancer as well as a 67% higher risk of death overall. Men who were "prudent" in their food choices had a 36% lower risk of dying from any cause.
Eating less processed foods, more fruits, veggies and lean meat and fish are cornerstones of heart-healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean diet. These diets have a long history of benefits in the scientific world. This is one of the first studies to look at the benefits for prostate cancer.
Even though the study followed men over a long period of time, the authors point out some limitations: They did not collect data on pre-diagnosis diets of the men, didn't track physical activity, and most of the 926 participants were white physicians, which might skew results.
"Therefore it is very important that our results are replicated in other studies with more diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds," lead author Meng Yang said.
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