It seems that you cannot pick up a magazine or watch the news anymore without seeing at least one story about the increasing obesity epidemic in the U.S. Americans are heavier than ever, despite the obvious risks associated with carrying those extra pounds.
The results of a new study from Kaiser Permanente just add to the mounting evidence that maintaining a healthy weight is among the best things that anyone can do to stay in good health. While the connection between obesity and certain types of cancer, including colorectal and breast, has long been established, this new research indicates that being overweight is also related to prostate cancer. More specifically, researchers found that men who are overweight or obese when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men who are not overweight at the time of diagnosis.
The Obesity-Mortality Connection
The Kaiser Permanente study followed 751 men who underwent prostate removal surgery to treat their prostate cancer. Among them, those men who were significantly overweight at the time of surgery were 50 percent more likely to die, particularly if they had more aggressive tumors.
These new findings support those of a previous study sponsored by AARP. Beginning in 1995, more than 287,000 men between the ages of 50 and 71 provided their height and weight measurements upon enrollment into the study. Over the next six years, nearly 10,000 men developed prostate cancer, and of those men, almost 10 percent died. Those with a Body Mass Index between 30 and 24.9 had a 46 percent higher chance of dying than those who were not obese; the men who had BMIs higher than 35 (morbidly obese) were almost 90 percent more likely to die.
While researchers have not yet established a strong connection between weight and developing prostate cancer, the fact that mortality rates are much higher for overweight men is a cause for concern among physicians. Researchers are also trying to determine exactly why obesity is so strongly related to prostate cancer death. Doctors theorize that the hormone changes caused by excess weight play a role, as does the unhealthy diet and lack of exercise so common among overweight men.
Staying Alive, Staying Healthy
Long term survival rates for men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are among the highest for all forms of cancer, especially when the disease is caught and treated early. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for men with early stage prostate cancer is more than 99 percent, especially when patients seek treatment early and quickly at advanced centers such as Pasadena Cyberknife.
For those men who have later stage cancers requiring surgical interventions, the rate is also higher than average. Survival rates post-prostatectomy (the removal of the entire prostate and surrounding tissue) average around 83 percent, assuming that the patient is healthy to begin with.
That’s why it is so important to maintain a healthy weight before diagnosis, especially if you have other risk factors. Studies show that it’s the pounds gained after age 25 that are the most problematic, so it’s important to keep weight gain in check as you age.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people of all ages take steps to stay healthy and reduce their cancer risk. Among the ACS guidelines are tips for diet and exercise, including:
Limit sedentary activities such as watching television. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, or about 25-30 minutes each day.
- Control portion sizes. Learn what a standard portion for most foods looks like and avoid overeating.
- Eat at least 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Limit the amount of red meat you eat; choose lean poultry and fish instead. Avoid processed or cured meats as much as possible, as they are linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.
- If you are already overweight, commit to losing even 5-10 percent of your body weight. Losing even a few pounds can make a measurable difference in your overall health.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your physician will discuss all of your treatment options and risks with you. But by maintaining a healthy weight beforehand, you will improve the likelihood of a successful treatment and a long, healthy life after cancer.
Scale image by mrd00dman from Flickr’s Creative Commons.