By Sola Ogundipe
If you are a man who does not fancy mushrooms, there is now one good reason for you to develop a taste for the delicacy.
Scientists have established that men who eat mushrooms three times a week can significantly reduce their prostate cancer risk.
You are probably aware that prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men and also a cause of cancer death in men in this environment, so this discovery is not to be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Although there is no cure, healthy eating habits have been suggested as a means of lowering the risk.
The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, theorized that mushrooms contain compounds that suppress a male hormone that promotes the growth of prostate cancer.
According to the study, the effect was especially pronounced in men aged 50 or older, and in those with a relatively low fruit and vegetable intake as well as a high meat and dairy intake.
Lead author Shu Zhang, a PhD student at the Tohoku University School of Public Health in Japan, said: “Participants who consumed mushroom more frequently tended to be older, have a family history of cancer, spend more time walking and have a higher intake of meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy products and energy.
“They were also less likely to be current smokers. The mechanism of the beneficial effects of mushrooms on prostate cancer remains uncertain.”
Mushrooms have a long history of being used in Asian medicines but the potential health benefits have only emerged in recent decades, with an increasing number of studies suggesting that they could help anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation.
“Since information on mushroom species was not collected, it is difficult to know which specific mushrooms contributed to our findings.
“Also, the mechanism of the beneficial effects of mushrooms on prostate cancer remains uncertain, “ Zhang noted.
Previous research in laboratory cell cultures by City of Hope hospital near Los Angeles found that extract of white button mushrooms suppressed the male hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which promotes the growth of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy diagnosed in men. On an annual basis globally, approximately 1.1 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 300,000 will die of prostate cancer each year.
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years.
If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.
But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Men are often put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools only just beginning to emerge.
Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a prostate specific antigen or PSA blood test which gives a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof.
Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks.