Prostate cancer is one of the lesser-known effects of obesity. Evidence suggests that obesity both increases the risk of prostate cancer and contributes to a poor prostate cancer prognosis, partly because obesity interferes with diagnostic evaluation of the prostate.
Does Obesity Increase Prostate Cancer Risk?
Whether an increased risk of prostate cancer is one of the effects of obesity has been a topic of fierce debate among urologists and oncologists.
High fat diets that contribute to obesity increase the risk of prostate cancer. Increased rates of prostate cancer in countries such as Japan began at the same time as an increase in high-fat western diets. While these figures don’t prove a definite connection between the effects of obesity and prostate cancer, they do suggest the possibility that a healthy diet may be important in heading off cancers of various types.
Obesity and Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
Obesity can hide early signs of prostate cancer. A prostate cancer biopsy is the definitive diagnostic tool for prostate cancer. Doctors will usually only perform a prostate cancer biopsy after screening tests detect the possibility of cancer. Obesity can interfere with these screening tools.
The simplest screening tool for prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam. This exam is more difficult to perform in obese patients, as fat tissue may mask a growing prostate tumor. Some patients may put off examinations because they’re embarrassed by their obesity.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test. High levels of PSA indicate the possibility of cancer and the need for a prostate cancer biopsy. Fat cells produce hormones that reduce levels of PSA in the blood, reducing the likelihood of early prostate cancer detection.
The Effects of Obesity on Prostate Cancer Prognosis
Because the effects of obesity often delay a prostate cancer biopsy, an obese man often has a less favorable prostate cancer prognosis when compared to men of normal weight. Prostate cancer death rates are higher in men with high body mass indexes.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2004) concluded that men with BMI scores higher than 30 are up to 34 percent more likely to die from prostate cancer death than men with BMI scores from 18.5 to 24.9.
Obesity may have also impact a prostate cancer prognosis in other ways. Obese men have a greater risk of aggressive prostate cancer, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2004) report. As with so many of the effects of obesity, determining why obese men tend to develop aggressive prostate cancer is unclear.