An analysis from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has found that taller men or those with more fat are more likely to develop aggressive forms of prostate cancer and to die from the disease.
The EPIC study is one of the largest cohort studies in the world, with more than 521,000 participants from 10 European countries who were followed for almost 15 years. A cohort study follows samples of individuals over time to assess the risk of developing a condition based on specific characteristics, such as height or body fat, as in this case.
Researchers in the Nuffield Department of Population Health Cancer Epidemiology Unit (CEU) used data from the EPIC study to examine the relationships between height or obesity and prostate cancer, according to different tumor characteristics, and death from prostate cancer.
In total, researchers analyzed data from 141,896 men in eight countries, including 7,024 prostate cancer cases.
Results revealed that for every 10 cm (four-inch) increase in waist measurement, the risk of high-grade prostate cancer was 13 percent higher, and death from prostate cancer was 18 percent higher. Cancer cells in tumors that are classified as high grade have a tendency to grow and spread more rapidly than cancer cells of lower grade tumors.
While increased height did not increase the risk of having prostate cancer in general, it increased the risk of having high-grade prostate cancer by 21 percent, and the risk of death from prostate cancer increased by 17 percent for every four inches in height.
The researchers point out that while nothing can be done about a man’s height, maintaining a healthy weight would reduce the risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
“The results emphasize the importance of studying risk factors for prostate cancer separately for advanced stage and high grade tumors,” Dr. Aurora Perez-Cornago, lead author of the study, said in a press release. “There is nothing men can do about their height, but at least it is now more evident that they may reduce their risk of aggressive prostate cancer by having a healthy weight.”
“However, further research is still needed to understand possible mechanisms, such as hormonal alterations, and to establish whether the associations we have seen are causal,” Perez-Cornago said.