A Man's Weight & Prostate Cancer

The list of problems to which obese people are susceptible just keeps getting longer – and more dire. Research indicates that men who are obese or even overweight when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men at a healthy weight.

The study, published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, included 751 Kaiser Permanente patients with prostate cancer who underwent radical prostatectomy. The scientists examined the relationship between the patients' body mass index and prostate cancer mortality.

They learned that men who died from prostate cancer were 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese at diagnosis compared to men who did not die from the disease.

"We found among patients undergoing surgical treatment for prostate cancer, weight at time of diagnosis is more strongly correlated with prostate cancer survival than many other factors researchers have studied in the past, including some prostate cancer treatments," said lead author Reina Haque, PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif. "Moving forward, we are hoping future studies will examine the effect of weight loss and other lifestyle modifications on prostate cancer mortality."

Patients with higher Gleason scores displayed the greatest connection between body mass index and mortality. The Gleason scale is a metric for representing the likelihood of prostate cancer spreading, and ranges from 2 to 10. In this study, obese men tracked with Gleason scores of 8 or higher.

Up until this study, the connection between men's weight at prostate cancer diagnosis and likelihood of survival had been suspected, but conclusive data were elusive due to self-reported or unclear sources of body weight data. The Kaiser Permanente research used used body mass index information collected from medical records.

Now we know the connection exists, but we still do not know why. Additional study is also required to determine whether lifestyle modifications in diet or exercise might prolong a prostate cancer patient's life. Scientists also remain curious about whether the results of this study, which looked at men who had prostate cancer surgery, can be applied to men who received other treatments such as hormone or radiation therapy.