Body Fat, not only Weight or BMI, Linked to Prostate Cancer

[Image from recent CaPLESS Retreat]


Where your extra fat lies in your body may predict the seriousness of your cancer.  

One of the first areas I address with my patients is fat management, and how important it is to lose excess weight from fat, if needed. 

The reason? Fat gain is not only linked with a higher risk of prostate cancer but can make your cancer grow and spread more quickly. Extra weight increases inflammation in the body, which acts as fuel for cancer cells.  This is why proper diet and exercise is the cornerstone of the CaPLESS Method. 

Yet, a new study published in the journal Cancer looked closer at this link between prostate cancer and weight gain and found that fat distribution, that is where your excess fat lies may determine the seriousness of your cancer. That’s right! It’s not only a matter of having extra layers of fluffy tissue around the body but the location of the fat matters.

Research from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health recruited more than 1,800 cancer-free men from Iceland  and measured their abdominal and thigh fat with CT scans. Measurements were also taken of their waist and their body mass index (BMI), which estimates a person’s risk of obesity using height and weight.

After about 13 years, approximately 170 men got prostate cancer. Those with larger waist size and higher BMI number had greater risks of both advanced and fatal cancer. 

No surprise there. But exactly where their extra fat was stored increased their risk even more. 

The researchers found that a build-up of visceral fat—the fat that lies deep in the abdomen and surrounds the major organs—and subcutaneous fat—the pinchable kind that lies just under the skin—were both linked with worse cancer outcomes.  

Specifically, each unit increase of visceral fat was associated with a 31% higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Each unit increase of subcutaneous fat in the thigh was associated with a 37% higher risk of dying from prostate cancer. 

But what I thought was most interesting was that the fat-cancer connection was strong even among those with a low BMI. In other words, even men with a normal BMI—which suggests they were not clinically overweight—were still at risk for aggressive prostate cancer because of where they carried their fat. 

What does this mean for you? 

For the longest, I’ve clinically  noticed that measuring BMI is not enough to determine patients health status. Sometimes patients have low BMI but high visceral fat. Such patients are called “skinny fat” – they look skinny but hold excess fat on their bodies..

There are three ways of reducing visceral fat, interval exercise, and weight resistance movements, eating clean, and intermittent fasting.

Interval exercise is simply alternating short bursts (approximately 30 seconds) of intense activity with longer intervals (one to three minutes) of less intense activity. 

Weight resistance is the action of pushing and pulling weight against force. You can use machines, your own body weight, resistance bands or free weights. You would want to graduate to free weights at some point as that form of exercise stimulates stabilizing muscles.

Intermittent fasting can mean anything from not eating for 16 hours and consume all your food within 8 hours to fasting two days a week and eating for the remainder 5 days. The goal is to abstain from eating macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein) for a prolonged period of time. You can have water, tea, and coffee (no milk or sugar).


Exercise prescription for prostate cancer

It has been my research and clinical experience that Four to Six hours a week of a mix of moderate to high-intensity exercise is required for men diagnosed with prostate cancer. And this goes for any stage of disease including while undergoing any medical treatment including Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT). 


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