Obesity A Factor in Prostate Cancer

By Lynn Dudley, PA-C, Diet and Lifestyle Specialist

There are many known risk factors for developing prostate cancer. Some of these factors cannot be controlled, such as genetics, race and family history; but others, such as diet and lifestyle choices can be. Numerous studies support the notion that being overweight or obese can play a key role in the development of prostate cancer. 

• A study published in 2006 based on data from the nationwide Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial found that obesity was associated with an 80 percent increase in the risk of high-grade, aggressive prostate cancer.

• A 2006 study published in the journal Cancer, by Dr. Alan Kristal from the University of Washington found that 34% of men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer had a normal BMI (Body Mass Index), while 66% of these men were obese. During the study, men who had been obese one year prior to their diagnosis of cancer were 2.6 times more likely to die of prostate cancer than the men with normal BMI. Also, men who were obese the year before diagnosis and had only slight spread of the disease were three times more likely to have the cancer spread or metastasize.

• Dr. Jason Efstathiou and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital found that men who were moderately obese – BMI between 25 and 30 – were 1.5 times more likely to die of prostate cancer than those with a normal BMI. And, obese men – BMI above 30 – were 1.6 times more likely to die from their disease.

• A 2005 study published in the Journal of Urology by Dr. Dean Ornish studied 93 early prostate cancer patients who had decided not to treat and do “watchful waiting.” Half of the men adopted a healthy lifestyle and half did not. The study showed that the men who adopted a healthy lifestyle were less likely to require additional treatment. PSAs in the lifestyle change group decreased by 0.25(4%) and increased in the other group 0.38(6%). Moreover, none of those who made lifestyle changes needed any cancer treatment during the study period, whereas six of those in the other group did.

The take home message from all of these studies is best summed up by a very important statement from the American Cancer Society – “An active lifestyle combined with a healthy diet DEFINITELY decreases the risk of many types of cancer, and in the case of early, nonaggressive prostate cancer, it may slow the progression of the disease."

In the case of prostate cancer there is ample evidence to support the need for men to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes a plan for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Patients who are interested in more information on how diet and nutrition can benefit their health can talk to their Chesapeake Urology doctor or ask for a referral to a nutrition specialist.