Men & preventing cancer – what do we know?

19 November 2015 | Cancer prevention, Cancer research

Lucy EcclesLucy Eccles is International Communications Assistant at World Cancer Research Fund International. Prior to this, she worked as a Clinical Trial Data Manager at the Institute of Cancer Research, working on prostate, penile and testicular cancers. She has a BSc in Biomedical Science from the University of Southampton.

November has crept up on us; the month where we traditionally hear a lot about men’s health, particularly male cancers. For this is the month of Movember and International Men’s Day. So what better opportunity to lay out exactly what we know about preventing cancer in men.

Prostate cancer

In November last year, World Cancer Research Fund International released a report on prostate cancer – the second most common male cancer worldwide. This report, which was produced as part of the Continuous Update Project – our ongoing analysis of global research on the link between diet, weight, physical activity and cancer - found strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases your risk of advanced prostate cancer. This is worrying as 38% of men around the world are overweight and 11% are obese.

Taller men at greater risk of prostate cancer

The report also found that taller men were at greater risk of prostate cancer. This intriguing finding should be explained as it isn’t height itself that causes prostate cancer, rather it is the developmental factors men are exposed to in the womb, childhood and adolescence that are linked to the increased risk of prostate cancer – height is just a marker of the factors they have been exposed to.

The report also found strong evidence that beta-carotene consumption (either through food or from supplements) is unlikely to have a substantial effect on prostate cancer risk. This finding hasn’t changed since we last analysed the global research on prostate cancer for our 2007 Second Expert Report, but the evidence on obesity and height were new.

1.1 million men affected annually

Given that prostate cancer affects around 1.1 million men worldwide each year, these new findings provide further motivation for action to be taken across society - from individuals, to policymakers and governments, to ensure that men are aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Finally, research suggests that men are less likely than women to acknowledge health problems to themselves or others. So we should all remember the importance of the risk factors linked with prostate cancer. This includes those conducting research into diet and nutrition, and governments and policymakers focused on tackling obesity worldwide.

What our analysis of global research shows (findings from our Continuous Update Project):

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of:

  1. Advanced prostate
  2. Colorectal (bowel)
  3. Ovarian
  4. Post menopausal breast
  5. Kidney
  6. Pancreatic
  7. Liver
  8. Gallbladder
  9. Endometrial (womb)
  10. Oesophageal (adenocarcinoma only)

Being tall increases the risk of:

  1. Prostate
  2. Colorectal (bowel)
  3. Ovarian
  4. Pre & post-menopausal breast cancer
  5. Kidney
  6. Pancreatic

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Lucy Eccles | 19 November 2015

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