A vegan diet is void of all animal products and is instead based entirely on plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains.
The US researches behind the findings used data on over 26,000 men to study how omnivorous and plant-based diets affected the chances of developing prostate cancer.
In total, 1,079 cases of prostate cancer were reported in the group, with around 8 per cent of those in men with a vegan diet.
The researchers at Loma Linda University in California found a 35 per cent reduction in prostate cancer risk in men who followed a vegan diet, which they called “statistically significant”.
Professor Gary Fraser, who led the study funded by the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This new research makes a significant step in linking a vegan diet to reduced prostate cancer risk.
He added that further research was needed to determine the extent to which such a lifestyle could reduce the number of men developing cancer.
Dr Panagiota Mitrou, director of research funding at the WCRF, said that due to the high number of prostate cancer cases, prevention is the key to cutting the number of men developing the disease.
Describing the research as “exciting”, she said “[the study has] helped fill some vital gaps in our knowledge about eating patterns and the prevention of prostate cancer and could pave the way for future research.”
She said that scientists must now attempt to prove the strength of the link between a vegan diet and reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
Jimmy Pierce, spokesman for the Vegan Society, said that the notion that eating meat is “macho” and “somehow enhances masculinity or virility” must be case aside to protect men’s health.
“Now is the time to reject this outdated notion and embrace plant-based living regardless of gender – for the animals and the planet as well as your health.”
The study comes after the World Health Organisation classed processed meat as a carcinogenic, and also found that red meat “probably” causes cancer.