Over the years, obesity has been linked to many types of cancer, from esophageal and pancreas to breast, thyroid and others. Though there is a multitude of studies suggesting links between these cancers and obesity, many have yet to conclusively determine whether a strong correlation does exist. Recently, it seems as if prostate cancer has made its way into the headlines as potentially being associated with or made worse by obesity. Since it’s always important to examine the news for facts and truth, let’s take a closer look.
A recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Early Prevention (CEBEP) suggests that obesity is indeed an indicator of whether to be tested for prostate cancer. The study, which was conducted over a 14 year timespan, initially studied 6,692 men who had biopsies or transurethral resection of the prostate (a type of prostate surgery). Out of that population, a nested, case-controlled study was then conducted on 494 men who had initially benign biopsy specimens with the presence of a precancerous abnormality known as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), and 494 men who did not.
After taking into consideration everything from family history to age and race, the study concluded that men who had a 30 or higher body mass index (BMI), had an elevated risk of developing prostate cancer in the future. A 57% increased risk, in fact.
In the U.S., prostate cancer is the most common, non-skin- related cancer in men, and is their second leading cause of cancer death. Some other studies suggest that obese men may also have a higher risk of a more aggressive form of prostate cancer, compared to those men who have prostate cancer and maintain a healthy weight.
However, the newer CEBEP study focuses on the cancer’s precursors, allowing for doctors to investigate possibilities for prevention and treatment before the disease has a chance to attack.
So when should you be tested? In “special circumstances,” the Urology Care Foundation suggests testing for prostate cancer if you have a family history of prostate cancer, if you are African American, or if you have a high BMI. Your physician will also take into account your age and previous health history.
To test for prostate cancer, a physical exam will be conducted, followed by a blood test screening for an elevated level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Depending on the results, a biopsy may be done to further conclude whether a patient indeed has prostate cancer.
It is still unknown as to whether being obese actually causes cancer, but some observational studies suggest that individuals who maintain a normal weight in adulthood, also have a lower risk of developing many types of cancer.
The strongest proof to suggest there is a correlation between obesity and cancer is the data from obese patients who have undergone bariatric surgery to lose weight. There is a lower rate of obesity-related cancers among this population than obese people who did not have bariatric surgery, according to the National Cancer Institute.
If an obese loved one is struggling with his health, please encourage him to make an appointment to see a physician. Sometimes, we forget how much control we really do have over our health and the effects our lifestyle choices can have on it. Speaking with a knowledgeable and compassionate health care professional can be the first step in taking back that control and leading a happy, healthier life well into the future.