“Men suffering from high blood pressure are at greater risk of prostate cancer”, the Daily Express has warned. Despite being the most common type of cancer in men, very little is known about what causes the cells of the prostate to become cancerous.
Other than age and family history, the risk factors for prostate cancer are also largely unclear. This news is based on a large European study that aimed to see whether so-called “metabolic risk factors” such as increased body mass index and high blood pressure are associated with the risk of developing or dying from, prostate cancer.
Unfortunately, even with its large size and reliable methods of assessment and measuring disease outcomes, this study doesn’t really provide particularly useful information on risk factors. It found no significant association between any of these metabolic risk factors and risk of developing prostate cancer.
The only significant associations found were for BMI and blood pressure and risk of death from prostate cancer. Men with the highest BMI or systolic blood pressure were at increased risk of dying from prostate cancer, compared to those with the lowest. Surprisingly, no association was found with diastolic blood pressure, and it is not clear why this might be the case.
Overall, limited conclusions can be drawn about metabolic risk factors and prostate cancer. As the study did not look at other factors that may influence these metabolic factors, such as diet and physical activity, we don’t know to what extent these risk factors could be modified.
Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from Umea University Hospital, Sweden, and other institutions in Scandinavia, Europe, and the US. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journey. All media sources have taken a rather simplistic view of this research. The Daily Express headline is incorrect because the association between high blood pressure and risk of prostate cancer was not significant.
While the suggested association between high blood pressure, BMI and an increased risk of death from prostate cancer is interesting, it is also to a large extent, somewhat of a mystery. This study cannot tell us if, or why, high blood pressure or BMI is directly linked to an increased risk of death.
However, in conclusion, BMI, blood glucose, cholesterol or triglycerides, were associated with risk of developing prostate cancer, so you do not have to worry too much about that.