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Obesity significantly increases prostate cancer risk for black men

Obese black men at increased risk for prostate cancer

Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than white men, but obese black men are at a significantly increased risk of developing the disease, according to new research.


The study’s lead author Wendy Barrington, an assistant professor in the school of nursing at the University of Washington, said that the main takeaway for physicians is that obesity has a different relationship to prostate cancer risk in black men than it does in white men.

“We did account for many differences that could affect prostate cancer risk, such as access to care, and lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity," she said.

"But it could also be that there's actually a biological difference between African-American and non-Hispanic white men... It's something for further research."

The study included 3,398 black men and 22,673 white men who participated in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial from 2001 to 2011. All were cancer-free when the study started, and were age 55 and up. During a median follow-up period of almost six years, 1,732 men developed prostate cancer – 270 black men and 1,453 white men.

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The study found a 58 percent increased risk of prostate cancer among black men compared with white men. With a body mass index (BMI) of 25, which is considered normal, the risk for blacks increased by 28 percent. But a BMI of 35 – which is classified as severe obesity – increased the risk of prostate cancer by 103 percent for black men compared with white men.

Charles R. Thomas Jr., MD, one of the journal’s deputy editors, said in an accompanying note to the article that the reasons behind the epidemiological phenomenon of African American men having a higher incidence and mortality from prostate cancer are not clearly defined.

“If risk factors for the development of prostate cancer can be identified, it is possible that primary care practitioners may be able to focus on risk reduction strategies,” Thomas said.

According to the American Cancer Society, other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. In 2015, about 220,800 new cases will be diagnosed, and about 27,540 men will die from the disease. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

[Photo credit: Luis Louro / Shutterstock]