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Adulthood BMI Increases Leading to Obesity Seem to Be Linked to an Increased Risk of Fatal Prostate Cancer

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Key Points

  • The risk of fatal prostate cancer was increased in men who had a normal BMI or who were overweight at age 20 years and developed obesity later in life.
  • The risk of aggressive and nonaggressive prostate cancer was not associated with BMI at any age.

In a study of data from men in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Kelly et al found that body mass index (BMI) increases during adulthood that lead to obesity are associated with an increased risk of fatal prostate cancer.

In the study, associations of prediagnostic BMI throughout adult life with risk of prostate cancer and fatal prostate cancer were examined in the prospective cohort of 69,873 men in the PLCO Cancer Screening Trial. At follow-up of 13 years, 7,822 incident prostate cancers had occurred, with 3,078 being aggressive and 255 being fatal.

Increased Risk

BMIs at age 20 years, 50 years, and at baseline questionnaire in the study at a mean age of 63 years were associated with increased risks of fatal prostate cancer (hazard ratios [HRs] = 1.27–1.32 per 5-unit increase in BMI). Among five BMI trajectories identified (overweight to obese in 3%, normal to obese in 7%, stable overweight in 10%, normal to overweight in 47%, and stable normal in 33%), the risk of fatal prostate cancer was increased in men who had a normal BMI (HR = 1.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.21–3.12) or who were overweight (HR = 2.65, 95% CI = 1.35–5.18) at age 20 years and developed obesity by baseline compared with those who had maintained a normal BMI.

Risk of aggressive and nonaggressive prostate cancers was not associated with BMI at any age. Modest inverse associations were found between BMI and the risk of total prostate cancer.

The investigators concluded: “Our results suggest that BMI trajectories during adulthood that result in obesity lead to an elevated risk of fatal prostate cancer.”

The study was supported by the Intramural Program of the National Cancer Institute.

Michael B. Cook, PhD, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, is the corresponding author of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute article.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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