Is Prostate Cancer Linked To Obesity?

A diet rich in fats and a fairly sedentary lifestyle have turned obesity into an epidemic of disturbing proportions – one that is on the rise in both the young and the old alike. Obesity can be a nightmare for many, more so because various other ailments like diabetes, heart problems and, yes, even cancer follow suit. So how is prostate cancer a co-conspirator in this equation? Obesity is a condition that causes several changes in the body – it interferes with hormone production and is known to suppress male hormone production. It also increases the risk of diabetes. To top it, obesity is also associated with several secondary health issues. And all of these factors can snowball into a serious risk of prostate cancer.

One of the most reliable indicators of obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). Research shows that an increased BMI can significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer.1 In one study, when researchers covered a broad group of men already diagnosed with cancer without consideration of treatment, stage, or grade of prostate cancer, they found that most participants were white males; 60% were less than 60 years of age at diagnosis; and their mean BMI was 26.7, with 17% classified as obese. Overall, the risk of metastasis, that is, the risk of the tumor spreading to another organ, increased with BMI.2


Obesity causes insulin resistance, a condition in which the body produces insulin but cannot use it. Scientists have studied the associations between prostate cancer and the polymorphisms of the insulin gene and found that it may contribute to the unique nature of prostate cancer.3

Another important factor that influences prostate cancer is the so-called Western diet – a diet rich in saturated fat, red meat, and empty calories such as those in aerated drinks. Studies show a direct link between such a diet and the incidence of both obesity and prostate cancer.4 A diet rich in fats works in two ways – it increases the production of a growth hormone known to raise prostate cancer risk, and it hampers our ability to consume food that may actually prevent cancer.


Obesity And The Risk Of Prostate Cancer Death

If you have a family history of prostate cancer or have already developed it, being obese can actually increase the risk of death.5 Obese individuals are also prone to a more aggressive form of the disease.6 This happens because adipose tissue in the body produces a compound called leptin, the levels of which are higher when there is more fat tissue in the body. Higher levels of leptin have been associated with larger, more advanced tumors of the prostate gland. If you are at risk of developing cancer due to genetic or occupational factors, maintain your body weight within an optimum range, among other precautions. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is known to reduce the risk of cancer. People who have made conscious efforts to lose weight have reported fewer cancers than their obese counterparts.7 Make a resolution to get fit and stay fit. The benefits far outweigh the effort!