OXFORD, England, June 2 (UPI) -- Obesity has been linked to higher risk of a wide range of health conditions, and researchers are now adding a chance for more aggressive prostate cancer to that list for men with a higher BMI.
A large study of European men found those with bigger waistlines are at increased risk for high-grade prostate cancer, in addition to having a greater chance of death because of any form of the disease, researchers at the University of Oxford report.
While researchers say this could be tied to cancer-causing hormones in fat cells, the theory has not been shown in research beyond the link Oxford researchers presented at the 2016 European Obesity Summit on June 1.
For more than a decade, research has shown the effects of obesity on cancer and cancer risk, including studies suggesting obese men have twice the risk of dying after prostate cancer treatment, increased risk for recurrence after surgery and that overall risk for the disease is higher among obese men.
"Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can protect against many diseases, including cancer," a spokesperson for Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, told The Guardian. "This research adds to a growing body of evidence that shows that weight and waist size could be another crucial risk factor for men to be aware of when it comes to protecting themselves against prostate cancer."
For the study, researchers reviewed medical data on about 140,000 men from eight European countries, analyzing the association between BMI and weight in men over age 50 and prostate cancer risk.
During the 14 years of data reviewed, there were 7,000 prostate cancer diagnoses, with 934 men dying of the disease. The greatest risk was among men with a waistline bigger than 37 inches, which increased risk by 13 percent over men with 33-inch waistlines.
Men with a waistline 4 inches larger than average saw a 13 percent increased chance of cancer, researchers reported, with the greatest risk seen among men whose waist was bigger than 37 inches.
"It isn't clear whether excess weight itself is causing men to develop aggressive prostate cancers, or if prostate cancers are less likely to be picked up at an early stage in overweight men, meaning their prostate cancer may be aggressive or advanced by the time it is diagnosed," Thea Cunningham, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told The BBC. "Keeping a healthy weight can help men reduce their risk of several other cancers including bowel cancer."