Sperling Prostate Center

Is Metabolic Syndrome Connected with Prostate Cancer?

American film audiences have an appetite for horror films. Psychologists and other researchers say the adrenaline rush brings a kind of enjoyment, and at the same time we’re in a safe place for learning how to deal with scary situations. The thrills and chills come as we watch sociopaths, monsters, aliens and more; but when the good guys dispatch the evildoers, we walk away from the experience relaxed and reassured.

And yet, a truly scary and monstrous reality is in our midst. It’s called metabolic syndrome, and it can maim and kill its victims without raising a general alarm.

We should be worried. It’s on the rise, starting with very young, innocent children. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, “Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world: one out of six children is obese, and one out of three children is overweight or obese.” This sets up a truly terrifying national future if these kids grow up to be obese, diabetic adults. This blog, however, is about a frightening future for individual adult males living with metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome?

While more men are becoming health conscious, it’s easy for waistlines to gradually enlarge and weight to creep up. Have you had to shop for a size up in pants? Has anyone commented on “love handles” or a “beer belly”? These can act as early warning signs for metabolic syndrome.

The National Institutes of Health provides a simple definition: “Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that together raise your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems. Metabolic syndrome is also called insulin resistance syndrome.” If you have at least three of the following, your health is at risk:

  • Large waistline – fat in your stomach area (belly fat) puts you at higher chances for heart disease than fat in other areas
  • High blood pressure – can lead to cardiovascular disease and compromised blood vessels
  • High blood sugar – may be a precursor of diabetes, and also raises risk of blood clots
  • High triglycerides – Linked with high levels of “bad” or LDL cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol – We need “good” or HDL cholesterol to help remove bad cholesterol from blood vessels

Metabolic syndrome and aggressive prostate cancer

No one wants heart disease or diabetes, but metabolic syndrome poses another threat in an unexpected area: your pelvic bed. A December, 2022 multicenter study analyzed 1,051 men to correlate metabolic syndrome with their prostate cancer (PCa) risk.[i] While there have been multiple papers demonstrating a link between metabolic syndrome and aggressive PCa, this particular project also asked if there are racial differences.

Both black and non-black men were included in the study. Men with metabolic syndrome tended to be older, non-black and have larger prostate volumes. With regard to PCa, however, there were no differences between races, since metabolic syndrome was positively linked with high grade PCa across all patients. The authors wrote, “Our data suggest that metabolic dysregulation advances an aggressive PCa diagnosis in both black and non-black men.” They note that if future research continues to support this connection, preventing metabolic syndrome could lower the chances of developing aggressive PCa for all patients.

Let’s face it. As men age, unless we put attention of diet and exercise, our bodies tend to get heavier and wider. PCa is estimated to affect one out of eight men, and most cases are aging related. Why set up conditions that can lead to more dangerous disease? Commit to a diet like the Mediterranean or DASH diet, that discourages metabolic disease. Embrace a program of regular vigorous exercise that discourages metabolic syndrome and may promote biochemistry that protects against PCa and other cancers. Diet and exercise are the good guys that can defeat the bad guys.

Knowing that metabolic syndrome and aggressive PCa are linked should offer twice the incentive to defend yourself against each of these potential evildoers so you can relax, be reassured, and safely enjoy a long and healthy 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] Guerrios-Rivera L, Howard LE, Wiggins EK, Hoyo C et al. Metabolic syndrome is associated with aggressive prostate cancer regardless of race. Cancer Causes Control. 2022 Dec 1. doi: 10.1007/s10552-022-01649-9. Epub ahead of print.


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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