Blood Fats May Raise Prostate Cancer Risk

High cholesterol and triglycerides may be tied to prostate cancer recurrence

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, and cholesterol may promote its growth. Even after prostate surgery, those with high blood fat levels may have a greater risk of the cancer returning, new research suggests.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 man in 7 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. And some studies have drawn a connection between high cholesterol and prostate cancer development.

New research has found that men who have had prostate cancer surgery may be more likely to have the cancer come back if they have raised levels of two types of fat in the blood: cholesterol and triglycerides.

The research was led by Emma H. Allott, PhD, and Stephen J. Freedland, MD — both of Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC.

The research team reviewed data on 843 men who had undergone radical prostatectomies. This surgery removes all of the prostate gland and some of the tissue around it to treat prostate cancer. Although this can be an effective way to rid the body of cancer, sometimes the cancer returns.

The authors observed that those who had blood triglyceride levels of 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more had a 35 percent greater risk of the cancer returning than patients who had normal levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

Those with high “bad” cholesterol also appeared to face an increased risk of prostate cancer coming back. In total cholesterol levels, every rise of 10 mg/dL over the 200 mg/dL level was tied to a 9 percent risk increase for prostate cancer recurrence.

“Good” cholesterol, on the other hand, appeared to have a positive effect.

Good cholesterol is a fat found in the blood called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Foods like fish and nuts contain HDL cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL cholesterol comes from foods like red meat and butter.

Every 10 mg/dL increase in HDL was tied to a 39 percent lower risk for prostate cancer recurrence among men who had abnormal HDL levels — meaning their levels were below the desirable level of 40 mg/dL.

The patients in the study had never used statins before they had their prostate gland removed. Statins are medications used to lower cholesterol. They may lower triglycerides as well.

"Our findings suggest that normalization, or even partial normalization, of [blood fat] levels among men with [raised blood fat levels] may reduce the risk of prostate cancer recurrence," Dr. Allott said in a press release.

This study was published Oct. 10 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The National Institutes of Health funded the research. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
October 9, 2014
Last Updated:
October 13, 2014