Hearty Cancer Predictor

Prostate cancer risk factor may be heart disease

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

(RxWiki News) Heart health can be improved with lifestyle changes - weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet. It may be that these changes also reduce a man's risk of prostate cancer.

Researchers have found a link between heart disease and prostate cancer, leading to the theory that the two may have common causes.

"Practice a heart healthy lifestyle; it's good for more than your heart."

A Duke Cancer Institute prostate drug trial involving a large number of men discovered this association. "What's good for the heart may be good for the prostate," said lead author, Jean-Alfred Thomas II, M.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the Division of Urology at Duke.

If this association is confirmed, prostate cancer risks may be lowered through healthy lifestyle changes - the same that are recommended to ward off coronary artery disease, the number one cause of death in the United States.

Obesity, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cigarette smoking and diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease.

Earlier studies looking at the association between heart disease and prostate cancer have produced conflicting results. 

For the current study, the research team analyzed data from 6,390 men enrolled in a large four-year study looking to see if Avodart (dutasteride) could reduce prostate cancer risks.

All of the men had a prostate biopsy in year two and four, regardless of prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Detailed medical histories were also given, including weight, heart disease history, alcohol intake, etc.

Of all the men in the study, 547 reported they had had coronary artery disease. These men were often heavier and less healthy than the other participants, with higher PSA levels, more diabetes and higher blood pressure and cholesterol. 

These men were also much more likely to develop prostate cancer, regardless of other differences, than men who did not have a history of heart disease. The study found:

  • Having heart disease increased a man's prostate risk by 35 percent, and this risk increased over time.
  • These men were 24 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer within the first two years of the study. compared with men who didn't have heart disease.
  • At four years, this group's risk of prostate cancer was 74 percent higher than that of men with no heart disease.

"We controlled for a number of risk factors, including hypertension, taking statins or aspirin," Thomas said. "We don't have a good grasp on what's causing the link, but we are observing this association."

Senior author of the paper, Stephen Freedland, M.D., associate professor of surgery and pathology in the Division of Urology at Duke, acknowledged study shortcomings. The study relied on data from an earlier trial that did not take into account such things as diet, activity level and the severity of heart disease.

However, Dr. Freedland noted that the study did eliminate a bias found in previous research that included men with high PSA levels.

"This is giving us a lot of good ideas for what to look at next," Dr. Freedland said.

The study was published in the February, 2012 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

This work was supported by GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Avodart; the Department of Veterans Affairs; Duke University Department of Surgery and Division of Urology; Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program; and the American Urological Association Foundation/Astellas Rising Star in Urology Award.

One of the study authors, Roger S. Rittmaster, is from GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Freedland and study author, Gerald L. Andriole, are paid consultants to GSK and have research support from the company.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 9, 2012
Last Updated:
February 9, 2012