Indigenous to Southeast Asia, tea was introduced into Europe and America in the seventeenth century. Other than water, it became the most widely consumed beverage in the world; it played a significant role in the American Revolution, and its importation made a few men, including John Jacob Astor, wealthy. Worldwide, the drinking of black tea (80 percent) far outstrips that of green tea (20 percent), but in China the percentages are reversed. Green tea is made in such a way that the chemical composition essentially remains similar to that of fresh leaves, whereas black tea has a somewhat different chemical composition.

Except for tomatoes, the evidence to support green tea as possibly preventing prostate cancer is stronger than for any other dietary factor. In animal studies, green tea has been shown both to prevent artificially induced prostate cancer and to reduce the size of existing cancers. The extremely low incidence of prostate cancer in China, where green tea is drunk in large quantities, has led many to suspect a direct relationship between these two facts. In Zhejiang Province, where green tea is widely grown, it ''is typically the only nonalcoholic beverage consumed by men, especially older men, throughout their lifetime.'' Patients with prostate cancer were compared to patients with other diseases on the frequency, duration, and quantity of green tea consumption. More controls than prostate cancer patients were green tea drinkers (80 percent versus 55 percent); the controls also drank more tea and had been drinking it for more years. Drinking fresh tea was especially important, so that ''increasing the number of new batches brewed per day to 2 or more was associated with a 76% reduced risk of cancer.''3 Despite such studies, in 2005 the Food and Drug Administration denied requests to label green tea as an effective cancer prevention agent.

It is uncertain what ingredient of green tea is responsible for its possible effect on prostate cancer. Many researchers suspect it is the polyphenols, which have been shown to have antioxidant properties and also to decrease the levels of androgens. Studies suggest that black tea, the kind widely consumed in America and Europe, offers some degree of prostate cancer prevention, but not as much as green tea.

Soybeans are indigenous to Southeast Asia and consumed extensively in Japan and Korea, mostly as tofu (bean curd), natto (fermented soybeans), and soymilk. Soybeans contain estrogen-like compounds called flavonoids, one of which, isoflavone, is thought to have anticancer properties.

Soy products may also be preventive agents, because until recently prostate cancer was rare in Japan. It is interesting that the incidence of prostate cancer increases sharply among Japanese men who migrate to the United States, where they presumably eat a modified diet that, among other factors, includes less soy.

Isoflavones have been studied in animal models of prostate cancer with mixed results. In some but not all studies, isoflavones appeared to decrease the onset of cancer or reduce the size of existing

cancers. Most human studies in which soy intake was compared for patients with prostate cancer and for controls have shown little or no difference; one study published in 2004 did show a statistical difference for the consumption of tofu and natto.4 If soy products do have an effect on prostate cancer, it may be because of their estrogen-like properties, which would block testosterone.

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