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Urology. 2002 Apr;59(4 Suppl 1):41-50.

Is obesity a risk factor for prostate cancer, and does it even matter? A hypothesis and different perspective.

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Department of Urology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0330, USA.


Measurement of obesity is not as simple as its definition. Currently, several methods of measuring obesity are used in clinical studies. Skinfold thickness, crude weight, lean body mass (LBM), body mass index (BMI), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) are some of the more popular methods, but each contains its inherent strengths and flaws. In general, the results of the largest studies on prostate cancer and obesity have not been conclusive. One of the largest studies found an inverse relation to prostate cancer in the youngest age groups. The age and duration of obesity or any rapid changes in weight gain, along with other unhealthy exposures, may have some relation to prostate cancer incidence and mortality. Early intrinsic or extrinsic exposure to estrogen or estrogenlike compounds may provide a protective effect. The timing and duration of a higher estrogen and/or lower testosterone exposure may have a beneficial or detrimental impact on the prognosis of an established prostate tumor. Negative exposures over time such as low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a greater exposure to growth factors, elevated insulin levels, greater sympathetic activity, higher cholesterol levels, immune system dysfunction, inadequate diets, smoking status, and other factors may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer and other diseases. Obesity may also be associated with other cancers for similar and different reasons. For example, morbidity and mortality from postmenopausal breast cancer, colon, kidney, and other cancers are potentially associated with obesity. Other comorbidities such as cataracts, coronary heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, hypertension, and others are also associated with obesity. The 2 largest prospective studies on BMI and overall mortality have also demonstrated the substantial negative impact of excess weight on society. Prostate cancer risk and obesity need further research to establish if a true association exists, but at this time, does it really matter? Overall, the profound adverse effect of being obese on general health is dramatic, and this is what clinicians and patients need to remember.

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