Study Links Abdominal Fat to Advanced Prostate Cancer

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Multiple studies have linked obesity with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. A 2019 study in Cancer finds that the location of a man’s excess fat may also play a role.

Between 2002 and 2006, 1,832 Icelandic men underwent assessments to measure their body fat, including computed tomography (CT) scans to identify where it was distributed. Each man also had his waistline measured and body mass index (BMI) calculated.

By 2015, 172 of the men had developed prostate cancer, and 31 had died of the disease. As expected, obese men (BMI, 30 or higher) were more likely than their nonobese counterparts to develop advanced or fatal prostate cancer.

But an analysis of CT scans obtained at the start of the study showed that men with a significant amount of visceral fat (the kind that surrounds organs in the abdomen and leads to a round, protruding belly) had the greatest risk. For every 4-inch increase in waist circumference, there was a 40 percent higher risk of advanced and fatal disease. Subcutaneous fat (the pinchable fat located just under the skin) was also associated with a higher risk of aggressive disease, but to a lesser degree than visceral fat.

These findings offer yet another reason to keep your weight— and your waistline—in check. The good news: diet and exercise can help you lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat.