Extra Weight Increases Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers have found that extra weight increases prostate cancer risk, and it also can result in a more aggressive and deadly form of the disease. That’s the consensus among the authors of a recent article appearing in Cancer.

Fat and prostate cancer risk

As men age and testosterone levels decline, there’s a tendency to accumulate fat in the abdominal area. The accumulation of the kind of fat that surrounds your major organs, also known as visceral fat, is associated with a greater risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and dying from the disease, according to the report. Subcutaneous fat in the thighs (fat that is just under the skin) also increases these risks.

In the study, 1,832 Icelandic men (average age, 76) without cancer had their abdominal and thigh fat measured, along with waist size and body mass index. After an up to 13-year followup, 172 men developed prostate cancer and 31 died of the disease. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Men with a higher waist size and body mass index had greater risks of developing advanced and deadly prostate cancer.
  • A five-point increase in body mass index was associated with a 50 percent higher risk for both types of cancer
  • A 4.1-inch increase in waist size was associated with a 40 percent greater risk
  • Extra visceral fat was associated with a 31 percent greater risk of developing advanced disease
  • Excess fat in the thighs was associated with a 37 percent greater risk of dying from the disease

Weight and prostate cancer risk

Although this is not the first study to highlight a link between obesity and an elevated risk of advanced prostate cancer and a poor prognosis, the findings may help clinicians have a better understanding of this relationship and help them provide better treatment options.

The findings also support the idea that specific distribution of fat in the body plays an important role. This is especially interesting because the researchers noted that the connection between visceral fat and advanced and fatal prostate cancer was greater among men who had a lower body mass index.

Therefore, it appears that men who have a normal body mass index may still be at an elevated risk for aggressive prostate cancer, depending on where they carry their extra fat.

In previous research, there has been a trend concerning excess weight and prostate cancer risk and mortality. In 2004, for example, experts showed that men with prostate cancer who were overweight had more recurrences after surgery than their lighter peers.

More than a decade later, the same experts reported that the higher risk of cancer recurrence also was associated with a greater risk of death from prostate cancer. Although being overweight doesn’t necessarily cause prostate cancer, it can have a negative impact on survival from the disease.

Bottom line

Men are encouraged to strive for and maintain a healthy weight, even though those with normal body mass index may still be at high risk for advanced prostate cancer. Overall, a healthy weight is an important part of judicious prostate cancer prevention and health.


Amling CL et al. Pathologic variables and recurrence rates as related to obesity and race in men with prostate cancer undergoing radical prostatectomy. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2004 Feb 1; 2293): 439-45

Dickerman BA et al. Body fat distribution on computed tomography imaging and prostate cancer risk and mortality in the AGES-Reykjavik study. Cancer 2019 Aug 15; 125(16): 2877-85

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