According to one study, being fat in your teens or twenties increases the risk of dying from prostate cancer by almost a third.
Carrying excess weight between the ages of 17 and 29 significantly increases the risk of developing an aggressive form of the disease and dying from it, a major study has shown.
Obesity leads to high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone involved in cell growth and development, which scientists believe can trigger the disease.
While people can’t change risk factors like age and family history, experts suggest this shows that maintaining a healthy weight is something men can control to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer.
Carrying excess weight between the ages of 17 and 29 dramatically increases the risk of developing an aggressive form of the disease and dying from it, according to a major study
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with around 52,000 cases a year, and the second leading cause of cancer death, with almost 12,000 deaths a year. It kills approximately 32,000 men each year in the United States, and another 225,000 are diagnosed.
Although many prostate cancers grow slowly and do not cause damage over the course of a lifetime, others are more aggressive, spread quickly outside the prostate and are more difficult to treat.
The scientists wanted to examine whether obesity was a risk factor for different strains of the disease.
The researchers analyzed data from 258,477 men in Sweden whose weight had been measured at least three times between the ages of 17 and 60, from 1963 to 2019.
During that time, some 23,348 participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,790 men died from it, with an average age of 70 at diagnosis, according to findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity. .
They found that weight gain was highest earlier in life among the study group, with an average of 1.6 lbs per year between ages 17 and 29, 0.75 lbs between ages 30 and 44, and 0.5 lbs between 45 and 60 years old.
Those who gained 1.1 lbs per year had a 10 and 29 percent risk of developing and dying from aggressive prostate cancer, respectively, compared to those who maintained a healthy weight.
Further analysis showed this was due to weight gain when they were younger, with those who gained 2.2 pounds a year between the ages of 17 and 29 – totaling 21 pounds – having an increased risk of 13 % aggressive disease and a 27% increased risk of dying from it. .
Dr Marisa da Silva, from Lund University, Sweden, said the findings suggest that preventing weight gain in young adults can reduce the risk of aggressive and deadly prostate cancer.
“Knowing more about the factors that cause prostate cancer is key to preventing it.
“The only well-established risk factors, such as age, family history of the disease and several genetic markers, are not modifiable, making it essential to identify modifiable risk factors.”
She added: “Previous research has implicated high concentrations of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone involved in cell growth and development, with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
“Levels of this hormone are elevated in obese people and a large increase in weight can fuel this elevation and the development of cancer.
“We don’t know if it is the weight gain itself or the long duration of being heavier that is the primary driver of the association we are seeing.
“Nevertheless, you have to gain weight to get heavier, so preventing a large increase in weight in young men is imperative for the prevention of prostate cancer.”
Simon Grieveson, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘Several studies have indicated a possible correlation between being overweight and aggressive prostate cancer, and this study builds on these by suggesting that taking weight earlier in life is associated with an increased risk of dying from the disease.
“While these findings are intriguing, more research is needed to fully understand the biological link between obesity and prostate cancer – and, more importantly, how we can use this information to improve outcomes for men. “
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does he kill?
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are killed by the disease in Britain, compared to around 11,400 women who die of breast cancer.
This means that prostate cancer is behind only the lung and intestine in terms of the number of people it kills in Britain.
In the United States, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.
Despite this, it receives less than half of the funding for breast cancer research and treatments for the disease are at least a decade behind schedule.
How many men are diagnosed each year?
Each year, more than 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – that’s more than 140 every day.
How fast is it growing?
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, so there may be no signs that a person has it for many years, according to the NHS.
If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated at an early stage.
But if diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and the treatment is to relieve the symptoms.
Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis due to the known side effects of treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Prostate cancer screening tests are haphazard, and accurate tools are only just beginning to appear.
There is no national prostate screening program because for years the tests were too inaccurate.
Doctors have difficulty distinguishing between aggressive and less serious tumors, making it difficult to choose treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a “PSA” blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it’s not reliable. Patients who test positive usually receive a biopsy, which is also not foolproof.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with concerns can speak to the specialist nurses at Prostate Cancer UK on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org