Why Do Men Put On Weight During Hormone Therapy?

Weight gain is a side effect of hormone therapy and an unfortunate effect that patients and doctors need to be aware of. Men who undergo radical prostatectomy and who use hormone therapy as their follow-up treatment are at risk for gaining a significant amount of weight during their first year post surgery. A multicenter study conducted at four US Veterans Affairs Medical Centers explored this issue in 132 men, average age 66 years, who had a prostatectomy between 1988 and 2009. The men’s weight was recorded about one month before they began hormone therapy.

When the men’s weight was checked at 363 days after the start of hormone therapy, the investigators found that 70 percent of the men had gained an average of 9.2 pounds (4.2 kg), 26 percent had lost an average of 3.2 pounds (2.4 kg), and 4 percent maintained their weight.

Weight data was available for the second year after hormone therapy started in 64 percent of the men, and the researchers found that most of the significant weight gain side effect of hormone therapy occurred during the first year after the therapy began, with no change in the second year.

Why is weight gain as a side effect of hormone therapy important?

The issue of weight gain associated with hormone therapy is important for several reasons. One, hormone therapy is being used more and more often to treat both recurrent as well as localized prostate cancer, so a growing number of men may face this side effect of the treatment. Two, according to Dr. Stephen J. Freedland, from the Duke Prostate Center at Duke University School of Medicine and the VA Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, “obesity is linked with a number of chronic and potentially life-threatening health problems.” Some of those problems include poor insulin resistance, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and loss of bone density. This study highlights the risk of weight gain following radical prostatectomy and hormone therapy, which allows physicians and patients an opportunity to take action to avoid it.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.

Reference

Joshu CE et al. Weight gain is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence after prostatectomy in the PSA era. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2011 Apr; 4(4):544-51