While a link between weight and initial development of prostate cancer already has been made, this report, published in the Oct. 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, is the first to associate a man's body mass at different ages and adult weight gain with the risk of progression after his prostate cancer has been surgically treated.
"These findings support the view that the development of aggressive forms of prostate cancer may be influenced by environmental effects that occur early in life," says the study's lead researcher Sara Strom, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology.
Given further validation of the results, Strom suggests a man's history of body weight should be a factor oncologists consider when designing a treatment plan for patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The data also suggest that interventions such as diet and exercise could be a way to reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression, Strom says.
Researchers based their findings on outcomes from 526 M. D. Anderson prostate cancer patients treated by surgery (prostatectomy). They followed the progress of the patients for an average of 4 1/2 years, checking whether the men entered "biochemical failure" or a rising prostate specific antigen (PSA) level, which can indicate the cancer is advancing.
"After surgery, a patient's PSA should go back to being undetectable, but if it begins to rise, that is an indicator of progression," Strom says. "Thirty percent of men who have biochemical failure will develop a life-threatening cancer metastasis, and so PSA is the only marker we have as yet to predict whose cancer will spread."