Men who are tall have an increased risk of developing and dying from aggressive prostate cancer, a new study has found.
With every additional 10cm of height, the risk of high grade disease and death from prostate cancer increased by 21% and 17% respectively.
The study, by University of Oxford researchers, also found men with a high BMI or large waist circumference were at risk. Every 10cm increase in waist circumference increased the risk of death from the disease by 18% and the risk of high grade cancer by 13%.
Dr Aurora Perez-Cornago, the lead author, said: “The finding of high risk in taller men may provide insights into the mechanisms underlying prostate cancer development, for example related to early nutrition and growth.
“We also found that a healthy body weight is associated with a reduced risk of high grade prostate cancer and death from prostate cancer years later.
“The observed links with obesity may be due to changes in hormone levels in obese men, which in turn may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
“However, the difference in prostate cancer may also be partly due to differences in prostate cancer detection in men with obesity. ”
The study is among the first to differentiate between high grade and advanced stage tumours while investigating the links between height and obesity and prostate cancer.
Previous research did not group tumours into subtypes according to how far the tumour had spread (stage) and how abnormal tumour cells were when compared to normal cells (grade).
Instead, stage and grade were grouped together in combined categories of aggressive or non-aggressive tumours.
Dr Perez-Cornago added: “Our data illustrate the complex association of adiposity and prostate cancer, which varies by disease aggressiveness.
“These results emphasise the importance of studying risks for prostate cancer separately by stage and grade of tumour.
“They may also inform strategies for prevention, but we need to do further work to understand why the differences in risk exist.”
The study was published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
Researchers said further work is needed to understand whether the higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer in men with obesity is due to an increased risk of developing aggressive forms of the disease or to differences in prostate cancer detection.
Susannah Brown, senior scientist at World Cancer Research Fund, commented: “This study supports our own research which also found an increased risk of prostate cancer in taller men. The link can be explained by thinking of height as a marker of the growth process that occurs earlier in life.
“While we may not be able to change our height, men can take action to help reduce their risk of advanced prostate cancer by being a healthy weight.
“In fact if every man in the UK maintained a healthy weight, about one in 10 cases could be prevented each year.”