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Obesity Increases Risk of Dying from Prostate Cancer

A large new study from the U.S. National Cancer Institute indicates that overweight men are definitely at increased risk to of dying from prostate cancer. NCI epidemiologist Margaret Wright and her colleagues surveyed hundreds of thousands of American men who were members of a national retirees' association. "They were 50 to 71 years old and they resided in one of six states or two metropolitan areas," she explains. "We recruited them into the study and followed them for 5 to 6 years and we identified prostate cancer cases through linkages to state cancer registries and also to the national cancer death index."

The men were asked to recall their weight at age 18 and were weighed at the time of the survey. The researchers used body mass index, an internationally recognized measurement of body fat, to determine if the men were overweight or obese. Wright says they found that weight gain and greater body mass index put the men at higher risk of dying from prostate cancer.

"We had a variety of weight gain categories, and the risk increased incrementally across these categories," she explains. "The risk estimates for just being obese at enrollment into the study, and dying from prostate cancer were about two fold for individuals who had BMI greater than or equal to 35." A body mass index, or BMI, between 19 and 25 is considered normal.

Wright says these results point to a clear public health message: adults need to monitor their weight and refrain from putting on the pounds. "The prevalence of obesity and overweight is really rapidly increasing in developing countries so it's a really important public health risk factor and it's associated with many diseases, not just cancer, but also with type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease." Wright's study appears in this month's edition of the journal Cancer.