Prostate Cancer and Weight
By The Weight Watchers Research Department
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, almost 218,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2010. Although the cause of prostate cancer is unknown, age, race, family history, and levels of male hormones are established risk factors for the disease.
Additionally, a growing number of studies have emerged to suggest a connection between prostate cancer and excess weight.
Prostate Cancer and Excess Weight
The evidence linking excess weight to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer is controversial. While some large studies have found a positive relationship between body mass index (BMI) and an increased risk of the disease,1,2 others have shown no such association.3,4
The research, however, has shown more conclusively that obesity increases the risk of dying from prostate cancer.5 For example, one study reported that obese men had a 20 to 34 percent increased risk of prostate cancer death compared with men at a healthy weight.6 Also, excess weight has been found to increase the risk of developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer7,8 and a greater chance of the disease recurring.
Weight gain during the adult years may also have a negative impact. According to a 2005 study of 526 male prostate cancer patients, men who gained about 3 1/2 pounds a year between ages 25 and 40 were about twice as likely to have the disease return after treatment than men who gained weight more slowly or who were not obese.9 In other words, a man who weighed 150 pounds at age 25 but weighed over 200 pounds by age 40 would have a higher risk for prostate cancer recurrence if he develops the disease.
Obesity and Prostate Cancer Screening
In addition to affecting the way the disease progresses, excess weight may affect prostate cancer screening. In a study published in the journal Cancer, the researchers found that obese men had lower levels of a protein (protein specific antigen or PSA) used to screen for prostate cancer risk. As a result, an obese man with a slightly elevated PSA might be at higher risk for prostate cancer than a man with a similar PSA at a healthy weight. The researchers concluded that these findings may help to explain why overweight men are more likely to be diagnosed when their disease is more advanced, and therefore should be considered by physicians screening for prostate cancer.10
This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.
Given the growing evidence to suggest a link between excess weight and prostate cancer, losing weight may assist in accurate prostate cancer detection, and promote treatment outcomes if diagnosed.
1 Andersson SO, Wolk A, Bergstrom R, Adami HO, Enghold G, Englund A, Nyren O. Body size and prostate cancer: a 20-year follow-up study among 135,006 Swedish construction workers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1997 Mar 5;89(5):385-9.
2Schuurman AG, Goldbohm RA, Dorant E, et al. Anthropometry in relation to prostate cancer rise in the Netherlands Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol 151:541-549, 2000.
3Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, et al. Height, body weight, and risk of prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 6:557-563, 1997.
4Lund Nilsen TI, Vitten LJ. Anthropometry and prostate cancer risk: A prospective study of 22,248 Norwegian men. Cancer Causes Control 10:269-275, 1999.
5Rodriguez C, Patel AV, Calle EE, Jacobs EJ, Chao A, Thun MJ. Body mass index, height, and prostate cancer mortality in two large cohorts of adult men in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 Apr;10(4):345-53.
6Calle EE, Rodriquez C, Walker-Thurmond K, et al. Overweight, obesity, and mortality from cancer in a prospective studied cohort of US adults. N Engl J Med 348:1625-1638, 2003.
8Freedland SJ, Terris MK, Platz EA, Presti JC Jr. Body mass index as a predictor of prostate cancer: development versus detection on biopsy. Urology. 2005 Jul;66(1):108-113.
9Strom SS et al. Obesity, weight gain, and risk of biochemical failure among prostate cancer patients following prostatectomy. Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Oct 1;11(19 Pt 1):6889-94.
10Fowke JH, et al. Effects of Obesity and Height on Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and percentage of free PSA levels among African American and Caucasian Men. Nov 15;107(10):2361-7.