Health Team

Duke Researchers Probe Link Between Obesity, Prostate Cancer

Posted January 17, 2007 2:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2007 6:33 p.m. EST

WRAL Health Team
— Health officials have known about a link between obesity and prostate cancer. Obese men are more at risk of cancer recurrence and more at risk of dying from it. Now, Duke researchers and the American Cancer Society know more about that risk and how to reduce it.

Prostate cancer changed 56-year-old Richard Leber's life seven years ago. After he had his prostate surgically removed he began exercising more and eating healthier because he did not want the cancer to come back.

"I lost about 25 pounds," Leber said.

Obesity has been associated with at least 15 medical conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. With prostate cancer, obesity can determine the form of cancer men get.

"(They're) at a greater risk of having aggressive prostate cancer, the cancers we really worry about," said Dr. Stephen Freedland, a urologic surgeon at the Duke Prostate Center.

Since obese people may get the more aggressive form, they are more likely to die from prostate cancer than men of normal weight. However, there is an upside in the research.

"The good news here is they were able to show is that men who lost weight, more than 11 pounds, actually nearly cut their risk of this aggressive cancer almost in half."

Freedland practices what he preaches. He was about two pounds away from being classified as obese.

"I changed my whole lifestyle, changed my eating, cut down on carbohydrates, cut down on the fast food and now I'm 45 to 50 pounds lighter, over the last year and a half, because I saw my own research, all of the negative consequences of obesity," he said.

Leber is following his doctor's example. He said he has given up red meats and adopted a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, fish, fruits and vegetables.

"I feel a lot better, and my cholesterol levels are a lot better as a side effect," he said.