Excess Body Fat Tied to Fatal Prostate Cancers

Many studies have found that obesity is associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer. Now a new study suggests that the degree of risk may depend on where in the body the fat is.

The report, in the journal Cancer, included 1,832 Icelandic men. All underwent CT scans to measure subcutaneous fat in the abdomen, the visceral fat surrounding internal organs, and fat in the thighs.

Over an average of nine years of follow-up, they found 172 cancers of varying degrees of severity. Some were high grade cancers, or cancers that score high on the Gleason scale, which is used to determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancer based on the number and character of suspicious cells under microscopic examination. Others were advanced stage cancers, or cancers that are not confined to the prostate but have invaded nearby tissues or metastasized to other parts of the body

They found that subcutaneous fat in the thighs was associated with fatal disease, and that higher body mass index and waist circumference were associated with increased risk of both advanced and fatal cancer. Being overweight was not by itself associated with prostate cancer, but visceral fat was associated with advanced cancer, and more strongly in men with lower B.M.I. than in those with higher B.M.I.

“The findings in this study do not support any particular intervention for prostate cancer prevention, but they may help to identify men for targeted interventions and open new directions for future research,” said the lead author, Barbra A. Dickerman, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “In the meantime, maintaining healthy weight and regular exercise remain important for a variety of health outcomes.”

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