41in waist ‘raises prostate cancer danger by a third’
MEN with larger waistlines are significantly more likely to die from prostate cancer, a study has revealed.
Oxford University scientists found that carrying fat around the stomach can increase the risk of dying from prostate cancer by more than a third.
It is the largest study yet to establish a link between excess weight and prostate cancer, which is not currently included in an official list of 13 cancers caused by obesity.
Researchers examined data from 218,000 men in the UK, dividing them into four groups based on the size of their waists. In total, 571 of the men, aged between 40 and 69, died from prostate cancer over a decade. None had cancer at the start of the study.
Those with waists measuring more than 40.5 inches (103cm) were 35 per cent more likely to die than the slimmest group, who had waists below 35 inches (90cm).
The risk from extra inches applies even if men are a ‘healthy’ weight, but have a beer belly. There was no significant link between body mass index (BMI) or total body fat and prostate cancer, suggesting waist size is a more important factor.
The average waist size for men in the UK is 38.5 inches, after ballooning to record levels in recent years amid the obesity crisis.
Fat around the waist is dangerous because it wraps around internal organs. It is linked to metabolic and hormonal dysfunction, which experts believe may trigger aggressive cases of prostate cancer.
Lead author Dr Aurora Perez-Cornago – whose work is funded by Cancer Research UK – said: ‘We found a significant association between concentration of body fat around the belly and waist and the risk of prostate cancer death, but no clear association between total body fat and risk of prostate cancer death.
‘ It shows that fat located around the waist is more clinically important than total fat. This is particularly important because as men age they tend to deposit more fat around their waist. It is not just a problem for slimmer men with beer bellies. Obese men with high total body fat will also have large waist measurements.’
Prostate cancer affects more than 57,000 men a year in the UK, killing 12,000. The Daily Mail has spent two decades campaigning for an improvement in treatments and diagnosis.
Some men develop prostate cancer so slowly that it does not cause problems, but other patients have a fast-growing form that needs urgent attention.
Dr Perez-Cornago suggested excess belly fat could cause the more aggressive type of tumour to develop, but added that more research was needed.
She said: ‘It could be that having excess body fat promotes aggressive prostate cancer cells.
But in men with a normal waist circumference, this doesn’t happen. Men with bigger waistlines could also be getting diagnosed at a later and more aggressive stage because they are less likely to go to GP. We know that obese men are less health conscious.’
Many academics believe the waist circumference is a more accurate indicator of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diseases than the traditionally used BMI.
The NHS says that, regardless of height or BMI, men should try to lose weight if their waist is over 37 inches (94cm).
And it says that men are at serious risk of serious health conditions if their waists are over 40 inches (102cm).
Karis Betts, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This large UK study suggests that the body fat around the waist, rather than total body fat, could affect the chances of dying from prostate cancer. But both BMI and waist circumference as measures of body fat aren’t perfect, so there’s lots more work to do to untangle this complicated relationship.’
Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘This new study suggests waist size is a more important factor than BMI when it comes to increasing your risk of dying from prostate cancer.
‘However, these sorts of statistical analyses are notoriously complicated and we would need to see the full results of the study to determine whether or not this is true, and if so, how we can use this to help improve outcomes for men with the disease.’
Two thirds of British adults are obese or overweight, threatening to undo decades of medical progress that has improved cancer survival rates.
The study’s findings were presented yesterday at the European and International Conference on Obesity.
‘Obese men are less health conscious’