Heart Health Does Not Exactly Equal
Prostate Health in Men
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October 5, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist
A funny thing happened on the way to completing a study on prostate
health. In recent years, the scientific community has been galvanized
to understand and prevent prostate cancer. In fact, many important
studies have been undertaken in universities around the world. One of
the largest was a study of 18,000 men called the Prostate Cancer
Prevention Trial which was organized to determine whether taking
finasteride daily could help prevent prostate cancer. This 10 year
mega-study, funded with $73 million by the National Cancer Institute,
began in 1993 and was carried out at 221 health centers across the US
under the leadership of the Southwest Oncology Group, a network of
At the end of the 10 years, the scientists totaled up the deaths. A total
of 10 men died from prostate cancer, 5 from the group what had been
taking finasteride and 5 from the group that had received a placebo.
That equalled less than 1% rate of mortality. But, the shocking news
was that, over the same decade of time, 1,123 men had died from heart
disease. In other words heart disease had a mortality rate that was
112 times bigger than the mortality risk for prostate cancer.
Heart Disease is the 900 Pound Gorilla in the Room
When it comes to the risk of death for men, many scientists have com e
to believe that there really is only one major factor to consider and that
factor is heart disease. In fact, several studies have been conducted
under just that premise that "heart health equals prostate health". We
decided to take closer look at the evidence of whether heart health
and prostate health share risk factors.
To gain perspective on how important your heart health is to your
prospects for a long life, consider this. Heart disease has been the
Number One killer of men in the United States for 114 out of the past
It is not an overstatement to say that, for a man, if you are taking care
of your heart, you are taking care of almost all that matters to your
health, at least on terms of death risk.
In fact, scientists have begun to notice that the same anti-oxidant
supplements which lower a man's heart disease risk also happen to
lower the risk for prostate cancer.
Men with Lower Cholesterol Also Have Lower Risk for Prostate Cancer
For example, it has long been known that having high cholesterol puts
you at higher risk for heart disease, But, did you know that it also
lowers your risk for prostate cancer? In another mega trial study of
prostate cancer called REDUCE (Reduction by Dustasteride of Prostate
Cancer Events) , scientists discovered that men with low total
cholesterol also had a 59% lower risk for prostate cancer.
This 4 -year second prostate mega-study of 8,231 men started in 2003
and was sponsored by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline. At the
study's conclusion, scientists tallied 147 deaths due to cardiovascular
events and none --- zero --- from prostate cancer.
How low did was the total cholesterol that was linked to the dramatic
reduction in prostate cancer risk? The magic number was under 200
mg/dL in total cholesterol.
Stopping Smoking Lowers Both Heart Disease Risk and Prostate Cancer
Smoking causes approximately 20% of all deaths from heart disease.
Smoking also accounts for 30% of all deaths from cancer, according to
a joint statement from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart
Association and the American Diabetes Association.
But here, the link between heart healthy factors and prostate cancer
healthy factors starts to weaken. Smoking is a strong risk factor for
several types of cancer, notably lung cancer, and is at least plausibly
related as a risk factor for 16 cancers in all, including colon cancer, oral
cancer, cancer of the nasal passages, pharynx cancer, larynx cancer,
throat cancer, liver cancer, pancreas cancer, bladder cancer, kidney
cancer and cervical cancer.
But, you will note, smoking does not raise your risk for prostate cancer.
Being Overweight Increases Your Risk for Heart Disease and Prostate
Being overweight, which for men means a body mass index over 30,
increases your risk for heart disease. But, here again, the evidence
does not conclusively establish that higher body weight puts men at
greater risk for prostate cancer. A 2003 study led by scientists from
Harvard Medical School entitled "Body Mass Index and Risk of Prostate
Cancer in Health professionals" studied 2896 cases of men with
prostate cancer for a 14-year period from February 1986 to January
2000. Weirdly, the risk for prostate cancer actually was lower among
heavier (BMI more than 30) men than for leaner men (BMI between
23 and 25) and if they were younger than 60 or had a family history
of prostate cancer. For all other men, the relation between BMI and
prostate cancer was statistically weak.
Now, this is not to say that fat has no relevance for prostate cancer. We
have written before about the higher risk for prostate cancer caused by
fatty, meat-based Western diets. But what this means is that the link
between being fat and prostate cancer has not been proven yet
scientifically. It points out that your risk for prostate cancer remains a
complex topic not given to simple reductions or easy answers and that
other factors ---exercise, overall health, family history --- may play a
greater role than just the number on your bathroom scales.
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|Maintaining a healthy body weight lowers
your risk for heart disease but, for
prostate cancer ...not so much.