Sperling Prostate Center

How Does Being Overweight Link with Prostate Cancer Death?

Every grade school has seen bullies who verbally pick on kids who are “different.” Obese kids are easy targets. Name-calling includes terms like fatso, blubber, chunky monkey—and worse. While bullying stems from insecurity, there’s no doubt that it’s hurtful and can only increase the victim’s vulnerability and low self-image. Studies have shown that overweight kids on the receiving end of name-calling are emotionally harmed, and are more likely to become obese adults.

Public humiliation is damaging for overweight kids, but there’s an even greater danger lurking in extra body fat for adult men: fatal prostate cancer (PCa).

A link between obesity and prostate cancer mortality

A large-scale UK study published in the journal BMC Med (an open access peer-reviewed medical journal) reveals an increased risk of death from PCa for men who are obese. The clinical term for dangerous levels of body fat is adiposity. For this study, which included over 218,000 men, adiposity was measured using body mass index (BMI), total body fat percentage (using bioimpedance), waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).[i]
he study authors found a significant correlation between total body fat, and also what is called central fat (“apple shaped” men with fat around the belly and waist) and PCa patients who died from their disease, rather than from other causes. In general, obesity brings greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders like diabetes, so death due to PCa is especially tragic since it is prematurely killing men who might otherwise have lived longer despite the more chronic conditions that accompany obesity.

How are obesity and prostate cancer linked?

While studies have previously found a correlation between greater adiposity and aggressive PCa, the exact reasons for this are still unknown. Theories include a) excessive fat promotes hormonal and metabolic abnormalities, including inflammation, that may stimulate the growth and aggressive evolution of PCa tumors; b) PCa not detected until it is already advanced and no longer amenable to local treatments; or c) a combination of both. In addition, the authors point out that aggressive PCa is possibly more linked with belly fat than with total fat, but that question also needs further research.

The point is, carrying extra weight, especially in the abdominal and hip area, poses a potential prostate cancer threat. A May 5, 2022 news report about this study carried the following information:

  • The research revealed that every five-point increase in BMI increased the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 10%.
  • Central fat was also found to significantly increase the risk of fatal prostate cancer, with every 10cm increase in waist circumference increasing the odds by 7%.
  • The researchers estimate that if the average BMI of men aged between 55 – 64 years old in the UK was reduced to be within the ideal range, there would be around 1,300 fewer prostate cancer deaths each year.

Your ideal body weight

Obviously, the research is done with men who are well above their optimum weight. Do you know what your ideal weight and BMI are? If not, you may want to use a convenient Body Mass Index Calculator. There are so many reasons for reaching and maintaining the ideal weight for your age and height. Adding the well-being of your prostate as one of the factors supports our Center’s position that what’s healthy for your heart is healthy for your prostate. Just remember to consult with your own doctor before embarking on dietary changes, and avoid fad or crash diets.

Finally, as mentioned in the research article, PCa among obese men may be harder to detect early. If you are obese, remember to have an annual PSA blood test. Early detection may save your life.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Perez-Cornago A, Dunneram Y, Watts EL, Key TJ, Travis RC. Adiposity and risk of prostate cancer death: a
prospective analysis in UK Biobank and meta-analysis of published studies. BMC Med. 2022;20(1):143. Published
2022 May 5.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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