Fat May Tip Scales in Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer may be more likely in obese men because of fat surrounding the prostate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Being overweight not only increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, it also may promote colon, kidney and esophageal cancer. Now prostate cancer may join the list of health risks.

Researchers have found that fat surrounding the prostate in heavy men with prostate cancer may create a favorable environment that aids the growth of the disease.

"Maintain a healthy weight."

Ricardo Ribeiro, MD, with the Molecular Oncology Group-CI, Portuguese Institute of Oncology, Porto, Portugal, and Gema Frühbeck, head of the Metabolic Research Laboratory of the University of Navarra, in Pamplona, Spain, led an international team that analyzed fat taken from the around the prostate in patients having surgery for the disease.

Scientists took samples from 18 men. Six patients had localized prostate cancer, six had cancer that had spread beyond the prostate and six had benign prostatic hyperplasia (or an enlarged prostate).

The team classified the men as either lean, with a body mass index (BMI) lower than 25, or overweight, with a BMI greater than 25.

Compared to the lean men, all of the overweight men in the study had different levels of gene activity in the fat surrounding the prostate.

This altered gene expression included genes that affect proteins involving immunity and inflammation, fat metabolism and programmed cell death.

A gene called LEP encodes the protein leptin, which is related to immunity and inflammation. The gene ANGPT1 encodes angiopoietin 1, which is related to cell growth. Scientists noted that the overexpression of these genes by fat tissue surrounding the prostate in obese and overweight men “may contribute towards a favorable environment for prostate cancer progression.”

Also, researchers noted that there were more differences in gene activity when comparing cases of enlarged prostate with prostate cancer and between prostate cancer cases and those who had cancer that had spread.

“In an increasingly obese population, understanding how fat, especially the fat surrounding the prostate, can influence the growth and severity of prostate cancer may provide an opportunity for implementing personalized lifestyle and therapeutic strategies,” said Dr. Ribeiro.

This study was published in September as part of the thematic series Metabolism, Diet and Disease in the open-access journal BMC Medicine.

No conflicts of interest were noted.

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Review Date: 
September 25, 2012
Last Updated:
September 27, 2012