JUL 19, 2017 3:27 PM PDT

Taller, Heavier Men Have Higher Prostate Cancer Risks

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Men with height advantages may be at a disadvantage when it comes to prostate cancer risks. In the same vein, men with bigger waist circumferences may also want to be more vigilant about their prostate health, suggests a new study.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

To find out if factors like height, BMI, and waist size influence prostate cancer risks, researchers from the Oxford University analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition database, which included information on over 141,000 men.

Led by Dr. Aurora Perez-Cornago, the team found that these phenotypic factors did not seem to influence overall prostate cancer risks. This conclusion is similar to previous studies, in which neither height nor BMI showed consistent links to prostate cancer.

But the Oxford team took it a step further and stratified their analysis by prostate cancer severity. When low-grade and high-grade prostate cancer types were separated, a significant trend emerged. With every increase in 10 centimeters in height, taller men had a 21 percent increase in risk for high-grade prostate cancer, and a 17 percent increase in risk for death from the disease.

It is not entirely apparent why increased height corresponds with increased in prostate cancer risks. However, Dr. Perez-Cornago speculates that such correlation could provide unique information on how the disease develops. "The finding of high risk in taller men may provide insights into the mechanisms underlying prostate cancer development, for example, related to early nutrition and growth," he said.

The team observed the same link when they looked at BMI and high-grade prostate cancer risks. That is, men who were more obese were at higher risk for the aggressive type of prostate cancer. For every 10 additional centimeters in waist circumference, obese men had a 13 percent increase in developing high-grade prostate cancer, and an 18 percent increase in death from the disease.

It is also not immediately apparent why increased BMI negatively corresponds with prostate health. But given that obesity has been associated with many health conditions, chronic and acute, it’s not hard to imagine why prostate health would also be affected.

"The observed links with obesity may be due to changes in hormone levels in obese men, which in turn may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, the difference in prostate cancer may also be partly due to differences in prostate cancer detection in men with obesity,” said Dr. Perez-Cornago.

Although the current study doesn’t attempt to explain the observed correlations, it provides important insights to prostate cancer risk factors that were previously missed when the disease was analyzed. "These results emphasize the importance of studying risks for prostate cancer separately by stage and grade of tumor," said Dr. Perez-Cornago. "They may also inform strategies for prevention, but we need to do further work to understand why the differences in risk exist."

But on a bright note, the team observed that a healthy weight has good effects for prostate outcomes. "A healthy body weight is associated with a reduced risk of high-grade prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer years later,” said Dr. Perez-Cornago.

Additional sources: Biomed Central via EurekAlert!,  MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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