Similarities of prostate and breast cancer: Evolution, diet, and estrogens

D. S. Coffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Environment determines the risk of both prostate and breast cancer, and this risk can vary >10-fold. In contrast, no risk exists for human seminal vesicle cancer demonstrating tissue specificity. There is also species specificity, because there is no risk for prostate cancer in any other aging mammal except the dog. A study of evolution indicates that the prostate and breast appeared at the same time 65 million years ago with the development of mammals. All male mammals have a prostate; however, the seminal vesicles are variable and are determined by the diet so that species primarily eating meat do not have seminal vesicles. The exception is the human, who has seminal vesicles and consumes meat, although this is a recent dietary change. Human lineage departed from other higher primates 8 million years ago. The closest existing primate to humans is the bonobo (pigmy chimpanzee), which does not eat meat but exists primarily on a high fruit and fresh vegetable diet. Homo sapiens evolved only about 150,000 years ago, and only in the last 10% of that time (10 to 15 thousand years ago) did humans and dogs dramatically alter their diets. This is the time when humans domesticated the dog, bred animals, grew crops, and cooked, processed, and stored meats and vegetables. All current epidemiologic evidence and suggestions for preventing prostate and breast cancer in humans indicates that we should return to the original diets under which our ancestors evolved. The recent development of the Western-type diet is associated with breast and prostate cancer throughout the world. It is believed that the exposure to and metabolism of estrogens, and the dietary intake of phytoestrogens, combined with fat intake, obesity, and burned food processing may all be related to hormonal carcinogenesis and oxidative DNA damage. An explanatory model is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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