Study finds tall and/or obese men at higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer

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A research team from the University of Oxford wanting to look at the relationship of an association between height, obesity, and prostate cancer grade, found that men who are taller and with greater adiposity had an elevated risk of high-grade prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer with the strongest associations being for height and waist circumference.  This study was published in the journal of BMC Medicine

“This finding is different from previous similar studies which primarily looked at the relationship between height, body mass index (BMI) and prostate cancer risk but each resulted in various conclusions,” said Dr. David Samadi.  “One thing that earlier research had not done was to split the data into cancer type.  Previous research did not group tumors into subtypes according to how far the cancer had spread or the stage it was and how abnormal tumor cells were when compared to normal cells or the grade of them.” 

In the United States and around the world,  prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men while in Europe, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men  Around 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, with 1 in 39 men estimated to die from the disease. 

For this study, data was taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which included 141,896 men from various European countries.  The average age of the study participants was 52.

Out of the men, 7,024 had incidences of prostate cancer of which 726 were high-grade and 1,388 were in an advanced stage.  There were 934 men who died from prostate cancer.

Link with men who are tall

Height in and of itself was not associated with overall risk of prostate cancer, but if a man who is tall develops prostate cancer he has a 21% greater likelihood of high grade disease and a 17% higher risk of death from prostate cancer with every additional ten centimeters (3.9 inches) of height.  The researchers were not able to explain why height may be a factor in prostate cancer but it could provide insights into other mechanisms which could be contributing to prostate cancer development such as nutrition and growth early in a man’s life.

“A possible reason why tall men appear to have more aggressive prostate cancer is that the taller a man is, the more cells including stem cells and larger prostate volume he will have,” surmised Dr. Samadi. “But at the same time, even men with smaller prostates have also been found to have more high-grade or advanced disease and a greater progression rate of their cancer.”

Links with men who are obese

Another aspect the research team observed was that men who had high BMI’s had an associated higher risk of high-grade tumors as well an increased risk of death from prostate cancer. 

The scientists found that waist circumference is a preferred and more accurate method for determining obesity rather than BMI in older adult men.  Men with a higher BMI had an associated risk of 18% higher risk of death from prostate cancer and a 13% greater risk of high grade cancer with every ten additional centimeters in waist circumference.  The reason for the higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer in men with high BMI’s may be due to changes in hormone levels in these men.

“An important finding which has been known for a while but strengthens the recommendation is the fact that men with a healthy body weight were found to have an associated reduced risk of high grade prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer.” said Dr. Samadi.  “There will be more work to be done to get a better understanding why obese men seem to be at a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer and whether it is due to an increased risk of developing aggressive forms of the disease or to differences in prostate cancer detection.”

“Of course, men who are tall cannot change their height,” exclaimed Dr. Samadi.  “But it could be that tall men should be screened carefully and watched more closely over the course of their lifetime for the possibility of developing prostate cancer.” 

Patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can contact world renowned prostate cancer surgeon and urologic oncologist, Dr. David Samadi, for a free pho9ne consultation and to learn more about prostate cancer risk, call 212-365-5000.