Higher rates of obesity may help to explain why black men tend to have more advanced prostate cancer at younger ages than men of other ethnic groups, the results of a recent study from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California suggest. Black men are known to have higher rates of prostate cancer and higher mortality rates from prostate cancer than whites and Asians. Whether genes or environmental factors such as dietary fat and excess body weight are responsible, however, is not clear.
To investigate the relationship between obesity and the risk of advanced prostate cancer, researchers reviewed medical data from 860 patients with advanced prostate cancer who were undergoing the surgical removal of the prostate over a 6-year period.
Obese patients were more likely to have undergone radical surgical removal of the prostate at a younger average age, to have an elevated Gleason score--a method used to classify the aggressiveness of prostate cancer--and to have had their cancer spread to other organs. Blacks, who had the highest average body mass index compared to whites and Asians, also had the most advanced cancers.
These findings support the contention that dietary fat and resultant obesity promotes the progression of prostate cancer to a more aggressive, clinically significant, form of disease. Body fat is thought to serve as a reservoir for male hormones and proteins that may promote the growth of tumors. Excess body fat can also inhibit certain immune system cells that normally prevent tumors from progressing.
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