Eating mushrooms could lower a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, scientists believe. However, experts have stressed no single food is known to lower a person’s risk of developing the disease by itself.
Researchers studied 36,499 men in Japan aged between 40 and 79 over a period of 13 years. The participants filled out questionnaires on their lifestyle habits, including their diets.
Those who ate mushrooms at least three times a week had a 17 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who ate the vegetable once a week, according to the paper published in the journal International Journal of Cancer. This dropped to 8 percent in those who consumed the fungus twice a week.
The link was most obvious in men aged 50 or older. The association lingered no matter how many vegetables, fruits, meat or dairy products, the participants ate.
The researchers aren’t sure of the mechanism behind this link. They believe it could be due to some mushrooms, particularly shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oysters, contain antioxidants. Past studies also indicate the fungus has anti-cancer properties.
While there is no way to prevent prostate cancer, the authors wrote, past research has suggested eating a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruits could cut the risk.
The authors also acknowledged their study was limited because the participants only reported how many mushrooms they ate at the start of the study, and this could have changed over time.
“This finding suggests that habitual mushroom intake might help to reduce prostate cancer risk. Further studies in other populations and settings are required to confirm this relationship,” they wrote.
Weilin Wu, a health information officer at Cancer Research U.K. who did not work on the study, told Newsweek: “Since not much is known about preventing prostate cancer, studies like this are intriguing. But we need a lot more research to back it up and explain any possible link before we can say that people should stock up on mushrooms to cut their prostate cancer risk.
“It’s unlikely that one single ‘miracle food’ will reduce the risk of cancer by itself,” he stressed. “And your overall diet is much more important than eating any one particular type of food. So instead of packing your shopping basket full of mushrooms, try thinking about having a range of vegetables, whole grains and fruits as part of a balanced diet and a way to help you keep a healthy weight.”
Ying Wang, a principal scientist in Epidemiology Research at the American Cancer Society who did not work on the study, told Newsweek food questionnaires are subject to error, and other unmeasured factors might explain the link.
“Readers should keep in mind that the evidence is still limited,” he said. “The finding in the Japanese population may not be expanded to other populations. Further studies are needed before providing dietary guidelines for prostate cancer prevention.”
Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease in the U.S. in men. According to the American Cancer Society, one in nine men will be diagnosed with the disease, amounting to over 174,000 new cases each year.