May 18, 2023 – Young men who gain a lot of weight between the ages of 17 and 29 appear to have an increased risk of later having an aggressive form of prostate cancer and dying from it, according to a new Swedish study.
The finding comes from the Obesity and Disease Development Sweden (ODDS) study presented at the European Congress on Obesity 2023 on Tuesday.
The researchers looked at data for 258,477 men who had at least three weight measurements between the ages of 17 and 60 years.
In most cases (83%), the men’s weight was measured objectively, while in 5% it was measured by the individual, and in 15% of cases it was based on memory.
Overall, men who gained a little over 1 pound per year (1.10 pounds) had, compared with those with stable weight, a 10% increased risk of getting aggressive prostate cancer later in life, and a 29% increased risk of dying from it.
Further analysis showed that this was largely due to a substantially increased risk in men who gained weight between ages 17 and 29.
A total weight gain of over this period of about 29 pounds was linked to a 13% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and a 27% increased risk of dying from the disease.
“We do not know if it is the weight gain itself or the long duration of being heavier that is the main driver of the association that we see,” said lead researcher Marisa da Silva, PhD, from the Department of Translational Medicine at Lund University in Malmö, Sweden.
“Nevertheless, one must gain weight to become heavier, so preventing a steep increase in weight in young men is imperative for the prevention of prostate cancer,” she said.
Other risk factors for prostate cancer – such as increasing age, a family history of the disease, and several genetic markers – cannot be altered, so it is "vital" to identify the risk factors that can be changed, she said.
In the U.S., prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (after skin cancer), with over 288,000 new cases estimated for 2023, causing almost 35,000 deaths.
Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (after lung cancer), with more than 1.4 million cases diagnosed around the world every year.