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Men's Health and Cancer

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Did you know?

Men’s (and everyone’s) health is important. This article provides information about men’s health particularly nutrition and other lifestyle factors in relation to cancer.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells. As cancerous cells can arise from almost any type of tissue cell, cancer actually refers to about 100 different diseases. While the big C word is feared by everyone it is becoming more and more common in Australia. It is estimated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that 145,000 cases will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number predicted to rise in 2020.

What about men?

More men have been diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and men have a lower life expectancy from cancer compared to women. The most common cancer diagnosisamong men is prostate cancer. The relationship between prostate cancer and diet is not widely researched and studies are not of high grade evidence (Peisch et al., 2017). However, widely recommended lifestyle behaviours such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and exercising appear to lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Reducing your risk

The Cancer Council recommend 7 steps to reduce your risk of cancer through lifestyle changes. It is important to note these changes are not specific to any one type of cancer or a specific population group. These are general behaviours supported by evidence that help to improve your overall health and lower your risk of cancer:

  • Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer.

  • Eating healthy helps to maintain a healthy weight. Go for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit.

  • Being overweight and physically inactive increases your risk of cancer.

  • Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia.

  • Alcohol increases the risk of bowel, breast, mouth, throat, oesophageal and liver cancer. The guidelines recommend at least 2 alcohol free days a week and no more than 2 standard drinks a day.

  • Get moving for at least 30 minutes a day to help reduce your risk of cancer.

- Get checked using the regular screening tools or seeing your GP if you think something is wrong

  • Regular screening and early detection improves treatment options and survival.


While there is limited evidence around specific dietary recommendations for some cancer. Below are some common questions or misconceptions individuals or family members may have.

Diet quality

A general healthy balanced diet reduces your risk of developing many cancers. To improve your diet there is a few things you can do:

  1. Aim for 5 serves of vegetables

  2. Aim for 2 serves of fruit

  3. Stick to the recommended portions of protein

  4. Include a serve of legumes 2-3 times a week

  5. Choose wholegrain breads and cereals

Eating well and enough for your body, gender, activity levels and lifestyle is important as eating poor quality foods or too much foods can increase your risk of cancer.

Red meat

Is red meat bad for you? A common question Dietitians hear. Red meat is a great source of iron, zinc and protein. Red meat isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ food; however, reducing red meat can be beneficial as a preventive factorto cancer. If you have already been diagnosed, receiving treatment or finished treatment it may not be as relevant (check with a health professional).

There is evidence to support consuming too much red meat and processed meats (like ham and salami) can increase the risk of developing cancer. Recommendations are to reduce portions to the recommended amountsand limit red meat intake to twice a week. Alternatives to red meat can be using chicken, fish or vegetarian alternatives such as legumes. Red meat can still be included in your diet; it’s about how much and how often you consume it.

How much is too much? No more than 700g raw red meat (455g cooked) in a week is recommended to reduce your risk of cancer. 65g of cooked red meat = 1 serve. This means you can eat 1 serve of red meat daily or have 2 serves 3-4 times a week. It’s up to you how often or if you include red meat into your diet. If you are unsure about red meat and your diet go see a Dietitian.

Does sugar feed cancer?

This is a common question patients or family members have. Yes, cancer cells do use sugar as energy BUT so do all of our healthy cells in your body. If you eliminate sugar (also known as glucose) from your diet, then you will be starving your body’s healthy cells as well as the cancer cells. Eliminating sugar will not cure cancer as the cancer cells will use protein and fat for fuel if sugar is not present. Therefore, cutting out sugar will not starve cancer cells.

Sugar is found in carbohydrate foods, these foods include starchy vegetables, bread, cereals, rice, pasta, fruit and dairy. These foods are needed to provide your body with enough energy (kilojoules) and nutrients. Avoidance of these foods is not necessary or recommended before or during cancer treatment (Queensland Government, 2017).

It is important that all men recognise the importance of their health and wellbeing and seek help from a professional to reduce the risk of health issues such as cancer, heart attack or stroke.

Reasons to see a Dietitian if you have cancer:

  • If you’ve lost weight

  • To help maintain weight

  • To find out how much food you should be having

  • Symptom management

  • High energy snack ideas

  • Improved eating habits

  • Myth busting any misconceptions around nutrition and cancer

No matter your situation, seeing a Dietitian is beneficial for improvement of overall health and healthy eating.

To book an appointment with our Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Brielle Musgrove call 02 6179 5814 or book online at our website

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