Among men who have surgery for prostate cancer, those who have high total cholesterol and triglyceride levels – two types of fat found in blood – may be at increased risk of disease recurrence. This is according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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Researchers found that of men who underwent surgery for prostate cancer, those with high cholesterol or triglyceride levels in their blood were more likely to develop prostate cancer recurrence.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. This year, 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 29,480 will die from it.

According to the research team, including Emma Allot, PhD, postdoctoral associate at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, laboratory studies have linked high cholesterol levels to prostate cancer, but population-based studies looking at this association have been unclear.

As such, Allot and colleagues set out to explore the link further by analyzing the blood lipid levels of 843 men with prostate cancer who had undergone a radical prostatectomy – a surgical procedure that involves removal of the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue.

“Understanding associations between obesity, cholesterol, and prostate cancer is important given that cholesterol levels are readily modifiable with diet and/or statin use, and could therefore have important, practical implications for prostate cancer prevention and treatment,” says Allot.

The researchers note that the men had never taken statins prior to the analysis.

Of the 843 men, 588 had abnormal blood lipid profiles (325 had abnormal cholesterol levels and 263 had abnormal triglyceride levels). Biochemical recurrence – increased prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels that indicate prostate cancer recurrence – occurred in 293 of the men.

Results of the analysis revealed that men whose triglyceride levels were 150 mg/dL or higher (normal levels are defined as 150 mg/dL or lower) were 35% more likely to have prostate cancer recurrence that men whose triglyceride levels were normal.

Among men with total cholesterol levels 200 mg/dL or higher, every 10mg/dL increase was linked to a 9% higher risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

The team found, however, that for men with abnormal levels of the “good” cholesterol high density lipoprotein (defined as below 40 mg/dL), every 10 mg/dL increase reduced the risk of prostate cancer recurrence by 39%.

Commenting on the team’s results, Allot says:

Our findings suggest that normalization, or even partial normalization, of serum lipid levels among men with dyslipidemia [abnormal lipid profile] may reduce the risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

Given that 45% of deaths worldwide can be attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer, with prostate cancer being the second most common cause of male cancer deaths in the US, understanding the role of dyslipidemia as a shared, modifiable risk factor for both of these common causes of mortality is of great importance.”

A recent study reported by Medical News Today links a specific baldness pattern to an increased risk of prostate cancer.