MAY 19, 2021 10:44 AM PDT

How does environmental quality affect prostate cancer aggressiveness?

A study from researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago investigates the link between environmental quality and prostate cancer, finding that lower environmental quality is associated with an advanced-stage diagnosis of prostate cancer. The findings have been published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease

Given that prostate cancer is up to 57% heritable, the research team was interested in understanding how much environmental factors make up the rest of that risk level. To do so, they looked at data from the environmental quality index (EQI) and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). EQI data comes from environmental monitoring sources like the EPA to combine subdomain information on air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic.

"When we drilled down further into the subdomains of the EQI, we found that some of the associations were stronger than others. Specifically, the land, water, and sociodemographic domains seem to be driving the association more than air or built domains," noted study co-author Dr. Michael Abern, who is an associate professor and director of urologic oncology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. 

Their analysis showed that residents living in areas with low-quality land, water and sociodemographic variables demonstrated the strongest association with prostate cancer being diagnosed at a later stage. Later diagnosis translates into real consequences for treatment outcomes, but early diagnosis has a nearly 100% five-year survival rate. Their study also considers sociodemographic factors such as health equity, showing that Black men have a higher risk of metastatic prostate cancer at diagnosis than any other group. 

The researchers say that their findings will help patients frame their diagnoses in their self-narratives. "When I see a patient with prostate cancer, they assume maybe they got it because of something they did. It is probably not. Not a lot is known about personal lifestyle choices that lead to prostate cancer. Diet, exercise and smoking have never had a very strong association with prostate cancer," Dr. Abern said. "Seeing a doctor and getting screened is still the most important thing about getting diagnosed." 

Sources:  Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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