Global review reveals association between aggressive prostate cancer and body weight

An in-depth global review of scientific research has revealed that men who are overweight or obese are associated with a greater risk of developing advanced prostate cancers, including aggressive manifestations of the disease that often prove fatal.

This new finding is the result of an analysis of research into how lifestyle factors may be related to the development of prostate cancer, carried out as part of the World Cancer Research Fund’s Continuous Update Project (CUP). The accompanying report is described as the most in-depth report to date, encompassing analysis of 104 studies that involved in excess of 9.8 million males and >191,000 cases of prostate cancer.

“The report’s finding in relation to being overweight or obese is important. It is the first time we have been able to show any kind of link between advanced prostate cancer and weight. It adds to our general understanding of the impact of being overweight or obese on cancer risk and helps inform our cancer prevention efforts,” stated Kate Allen, Executive Director Science and Public Affairs at World Cancer Research Fund International.

This CUP report details strong evidence of a link between being overweight or obese and advanced prostate cancer, and the World Cancer Research Fund estimate that approximately 10% of these advanced cancer cases could be prevented annually in the UK if men were to maintain a healthy weight.

These results have also questioned previous consensus on the links between prostate cancer and certain food items. The evidence suggesting that diets rich in calcium are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer has been downgraded from ‘strong’ to ‘limited’. Similarly, previous evidence suggesting that lycopene-containing foods decreased the risk of prostate cancer has been downgraded from ‘strong’ to ‘no conclusion possible’.

“…the CUP also points to a more complicated picture than first thought. More research has emerged into lifestyle, diet and prostate cancer since our last review. The result is that some of the evidence linking certain foods to prostate cancer risk has become less clear,” continued Allen.

The team behind CUP suggest that the emergence of this link between overweight/obese individuals and advanced prostate cancer could have some important implications. In particular, questions may be raised in relation to prostate cancer screening, asking whether excess weight should be considered alongside factors like family history in discussions between clinicians and men at risk of advanced prostate cancer.

“With so much controversy over the merits of screening for prostate cancer, it is vital in primary care for us to understand which patients are most at risk of developing this disease and are therefore most likely to benefit from PSA testing. The findings of this review have significant implications: they add strength to the rationale for encouragement of a healthy lifestyle and control of weight, in terms of cancer prevention; they point us towards recognizing overweight or obesity as a risk factor to take into account when discussing screening with patients; and they point us towards avenues of research that may help us to reduce the impact of this disease which kills over 10,000 men a year in the UK alone,” commented Jonathan Rees, Chair of the Primary Care Urology Society.

Source: World Cancer Research Fund press release

Read our previous news coverage on the link between lycopene-containing foods and risk of prostate cancer here.