One Major Side Effect of Being Overweight for Men, New Study Says

Abdominal obesity may be a contributing factor behind the second most common cancer in American men.

By Kate Walker | July 13, 2021

If a little extra weight around your middle has left you feeling less than your best, now may be time to take a look at trimming that torso. A groundbreaking new study has revealed that abdominal obesity may be a contributing factor behind the second most common cancer in American men (and the first for guys in Canada).

You might already be aware that in recent years, "belly fat" has been linked to endocrinological disorders like diabetes, as well as other health issues such as cardiovascular problems. Now, a new Canadian study has honed in on another serious problem for men with abdominal obesity: prostate cancer. (RELATED: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work)

But there's a glimmer of hope—researchers say the findings create an opportunity for doctors to work preventively with patients. Read on to learn about this link between being overweight and cancer. Also, don't miss the Best Supplements for a Longer Life, According to Dietitians.

The study examined whether fat distribution plays a role in cancer development.

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Published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, Cancer Causes & Control, the study was led by five public health and epidemiology researchers from Canada's Institut national de la recherche scientifique (National Institute of Scientific Research) with support from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Knowing that obesity had previously been linked to prostate cancer, the team sought to understand whether the distribution of excess weight throughout the body played a role cancer development.

The prostate cancer study examined data between 2005 and 2012.

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The researchers examined data collected from more than 1,900 adult male participants with a maximum age of 75 between 2005 and 2012. Researchers took measurements of the participants' waists and hips, as well as interviewed them about their height, weight, and other statistics to determine their body mass index (BMI).

RELATED: This 7-Minute Walking Trick Could Add Years to Your Life, Says Study

Researchers identified a link between belly fat and prostate cancer.

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After running the data, the researchers discovered that "abdominal obesity appears to be associated with a greater risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer." They also found that as BMI increased, so did the chance of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Getting more granular, they added that a waist circumference of 40 inches or higher was associated with an even more elevated risk of aggressive advanced prostate cancer.

The effect of belly fat on men appears to be hormonal.

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Interestingly, the researchers found that general obesity was not in and of itself a cause of prostate cancer. Instead, it's specifically belly fat that they believe can lead to the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.

"Abdominal obesity causes hormonal and metabolic variations that can promote the growth of hormone-dependent cancer cells," Éric Vallières, a doctoral student at the University of Montreal who served as the study's main author, said. "Abdominal obesity is believed to be associated with a decrease in testosterone, as well as a state of chronic inflammation linked to the development of aggressive tumors."

RELATED: 40 Best Weight Loss Tips If You're Over 40

This new understanding could improve men's long-term health outcomes.

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According to Marie-Elise Parent, the study's lead researcher, the revelations from this study create an opportunity for doctors to work preventively with patients.

"Pinpointing the risk factors for aggressive cancer is a big step forward in health research because it's the hardest to treat," Parent stated. "This data creates an opportunity to work preventively, by monitoring men with this risk factor more closely."

Don't forget to check out the 50 Best Foods That Lower Your Cancer Risk and sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter to get all of the health and nutrition news you need.

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