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Body fat distribution linked to higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer

June 10, 2019

In the first prospective study of directly measured body fat distribution and prostate cancer risk, investigators found that higher levels of abdominal and thigh fat are associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings may lead to a better understanding of the relationship between obesity and prostate cancer and provide new insights for treatment.

Previous studies have shown that obesity is associated with an elevated risk of advanced prostate cancer and a poorer prognosis after diagnosis. Also, emerging evidence suggests that the specific distribution of fat in the body may be an important factor.

To provide high quality evidence, Barbra Dickerman, PhD, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and her colleagues analyzed body fat distribution using the gold-standard measure of computed tomography imaging and assessed the risk of being diagnosed with, and dying from, prostate cancer among 1,832 Icelandic men who were followed for up to 13 years.

During the study, 172 men developed prostate cancer and 31 died from the disease. The accumulation of fat in specific areas--such as visceral fat (deep in the abdomen, surrounding the organs) and thigh subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin)--was associated with the risk of advanced and fatal prostate cancer. High body mass index (BMI) and high waist circumference were also associated with higher risks of advanced and fatal prostate cancer.

"Interestingly, when we looked separately at men with a high BMI versus low BMI, we found that the association between visceral fat and advanced and fatal prostate cancer was stronger among men with a lower BMI. The precision of these estimates was limited in this subgroup analysis, but this is an intriguing signal for future research," Dickerman noted.

Additional studies are needed to investigate the role of fat distribution in the development and progression of prostate cancer and how changes in fat stores over time may affect patients' health. "Ultimately, identifying the patterns of fat distribution that are associated with the highest risk of clinically significant prostate cancer may help to elucidate the mechanisms linking obesity with aggressive disease and target men for intervention strategies," said Dickerman.

An accompanying editorial notes that lifestyle interventions--such as diet and exercise--that target fat loss may also reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
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Additional Information

NOTE: The information contained in this release is protected by copyright. Please include journal attribution in all coverage. A free abstract of this article will be available via the Cancer News Room upon online publication. For more information or to obtain a PDF of any study, please contact:

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Full Citations:

"Body fat distribution on CT imaging and prostate cancer risk and mortality in the AGES-Reykjavik Study." Barbra A. Dickerman, Johanna E. Torfadottir, Unnur A. Valdimarsdottir, Edward Giovannucci, Kathryn M. Wilson, Thor Aspelund, Laufey Tryggvadottir, Lara G. Sigurdardottir, Tamara B. Harris, Lenore J. Launer, Vilmundur Gudnason, Sarah C. Markt, and Lorelei A. Mucci. CANCER; Published Online: June 10, 2019 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.32167).
URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.32167

"Obesity, visceral and prostate cancer: What is the role of lifestyle interventions?" Celina H. Shirazipour and Stephen J. Freedland. CANCER; Published Online: June 10, 2019 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.32165).
URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.32165

Contact for Dickerman: Todd Datz, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Communications Office at +1 617-432-8413 or tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu

About the Journal

CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online.

Follow us on Twitter @JournalCancer

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Wiley drives the world forward with research and education. Our scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals and our digital learning, certification, and student-lifecycle services and solutions help students, researchers, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals in an ever-changing world. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to all of our stakeholders. The Company's website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com

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