I Ate Tomatoes and Drank Green Tea and Still Got Prostate Cancer

Dr. Duchenne (Public Domain)

Dr. Duchenne (Public Domain)

I don’t know about you, but my ears perk up when I hear about the things you’re supposed to do to prevent cancer – like “get your antioxidants,” drink green tea, eat tomatoes (lycopene) – to name just a few. Well I did eat (and drink) all that stuff and still got prostate cancer.   So forgive me if I sound a tad skeptical.

Warning: this rant is not based on science. I am not a physician – far from it – I’m an accountant.


Prostate cancer runs in my family and has for at least four generations that I know of. My great grandfather died from it, my grandfather died at a younger age, so we don’t know about him. Then my father and all 3 of his brothers (my uncles) were diagnosed with prostate cancer.   As the next male in line, I had a strong suspicion that my turn was next.  And I was right.

What I did

So knowing about this long history of prostate cancer in my family, I paid special attention to documentaries, read a lot of studies, and tried to keep up to date on the latest cancer research. I really listened when they told me what I should be doing to prevent prostate cancer. I loaded up on the fresh fruit and vegetables, drank green tea, made sure to eat tomato products, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy weight, and got good rest.  And, most importantly, I did not start doing all of this last Tuesday – I had been making a valiant effort to “eat clean” for a good twenty years or more!

Guess what, I still got prostate cancer.

From what I can tell, scientists believe that cancer has two main causes – genetic and environmental.  So I think I clearly fell on the genetics side of that ledger.

Based on my case alone, (a sample size of one), I am of the unscientific opinion that for certain types of cancer, genetic types like prostate cancer that run in families, there is little you can do to prevent it. Of course, my view is totally unsupported by any facts, and you should never rely on it.  (Only make decisions about your own heath in consultation with a licensed medical doctor).

Yes, I believe your personal behavior can contribute to some forms of cancer, like staying out in the sun too long.  But for genetic, family-type  cancers, I think the writing is on the wall – it’s only a matter of time. That’s what I think anyway.

I was always intrigued by the story of Jay Kordich, formerly known as The Juiceman, who – the story goes – had bladder cancer as a college age man and beat it, supposedly, never to rear its ugly head again by juicing fruits and vegetables and avoiding bad stuff like cake. Not only that, he’s still going strong today in his nineties, and I presume, cancer free.

I think it is a rare individual who has the time and resources to be as diligent and conscientious as Jay apparently was and still is.

mixed fruit and vegetables

Image by Olearys CC-BY-2.0

So where does that leave the rest of us?

I am left with the idea that the single-best thing you can do to beat cancer is early detection – that is your best chance at beating the disease.  Regular doctor visits, regular checkups, mammograms, PSA tests, DRE’s (digital rectal exams) Listen to your body, examine your body and see your doctor on a regular basis.

I don’t have to cite scientific studies to back me up here – it’s common sense – the earlier you detect a disease, any disease, the better your chances of beating it are, and cancer is no exception.

Does that mean you should skip the green tea and the tomato paste? No, I don’t believe you should.  One possible benefit that I received from “eating right” is that when I did get diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was a milder form. Is it possible that eating all those fruits and vegetables protected me from, say, a more aggressive form of prostate cancer?


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