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Obesity increases men's risk of prostate cancer death

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Overweight men are far more likely to have precancerous lesions detected in a benign prostate biopsy. Therefore, they are at a greater risk for subsequently developing prostate cancer, a new study shows.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We don't know if obesity causes it (prostate cancer) or makes it harder to treat." Dr. Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City said.

Rundle, who conducted the study, added that "It is absolutely clear that obesity increases a man's risk of dying from prostate cancer."

Being overweight is known to cause five cancers -- post-menopausal breast, colon, kidney, endometrial (uterus) and esophageal. Cancer of the prostate -- the gland that releases the male hormone, testosterone, into the body -- is the leading diagnosed cancer in men and is only second to the leading cancer killer among men, lung cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, 28,000 men died of it last year in the United States and over 238,000 new cases will be detected in the country this year.

"Studies conducted in the past have attempted to determine if there are subpopulations of men diagnosed with benign conditions that may be at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer," Rundle said. "This is one of the first studies to assess the association between obesity and precancerous abnormalities."

Obesity and future prostate cancer incidence in 6,692 men was studied by Rundle and his associates at the Henry Ford Health System. Subjects were followed for 14 years after a biopsy or transurethral resection of the prostate with benign findings.

To determine obesity, Rundle used the standard Body Mass Index, which factors in weight and height combined. Taking an average BMI of 30, Rundle said about one-third of the U.S population is considered obese.

The researchers conducted a case-control study among 494 of these patients and 494 matched controls; they found precancerous abnormalities in 11 percent of the patients' benign specimens. These abnormalities were significantly associated with obesity at the time of the procedure.

Family history of prostate cancer, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood, and the number of PSA tests and digital rectal exams were all studied during the follow-up. Researchers found that obesity at the time of the initial procedure was associated with a 57 percent increased incidence of prostate cancer during follow-up.

Helena Furberg, associate attending epidemiologist at Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said Rundle's findings represented "a significant research study.

"Now, future studies should look at the question: does losing weight decrease the risk of prostate cancer?" she said in an interview.

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