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Health Factors that Increase Prostate Cancer Risks

prostate cancer, metabolic syndrome, men's health, obesity

Certain factors can increase the risk of prostate cancer, such as genetics, diet and environmental chemical exposure. Not all of these risk factors are preventable. A study from Umeå University in Sweden helps men to better understand a few of their health choices that can be controlled, such as weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among males and the most common cause of death in men over the age of 75. It is rarely found in men who are younger than 40, but genetics and race can play a role in increasing risk. For example, African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer at any age and men with a father or brother with the disease are at greater risk.

Christel Häggström MSc and colleagues used data from the ongoing Metabolic Syndrome and Cancer Project (Me-Can) to study how metabolic factors such as blood pressure, lipids (blood fats/cholesterol), glucose, and weight contribute to increasing the risk for developing prostate cancer. The database includes information from almost 290,000 men from Sweden, Norway, and Austria.
During an average follow-up period of 12 years, 6673 men developed prostate cancer.

While metabolic factors did not appear to specifically raise the risk for developing prostate cancer, a man's chances of dying from the disease are higher if he has a high BMI (body mass index), hypertension (high blood pressure), and elevated blood sugar and/or blood lipids. This combination of symptoms is known as the Metabolic Syndrome.

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The results of the study add evidence that metabolic factors may be related to an increased risk for disease progression, says Häggström. For example, a separate study recently found that the fat that surrounds the prostate in obese men with prostate cancer provides an ideal environment for cancer growth because it is an energy source and it secretes factors such as hormones and cytokines. It also plays a major role in the immune system, which protects the body from disease and infection.

“Thus, from a public health perspective, the data…will add some further motivation to control metabolic factors to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and, to some degree, prostate cancer death,” said Häggström.

To reduce your risk of disease, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following lifestyle changes if you have metabolic syndrome:

Lose weight. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce insulin levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.
Exercise. Doctors recommend getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, every day.
Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome.
Eat fiber-rich foods. Make sure you include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables in your diet. These items are packed with dietary fiber, which can lower your insulin levels. Another recent study found evidence that moving toward a plant-based diet (vegetarian) could also help reduce aggressive prostate cancer risk.

Journal reference:
Häggström C et al. "Prospective study on metabolic factors and risk of prostate cancer" Cancer 2012; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.27677.