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What Does Metabolic Syndrome Have To Do with Prostate Cancer?

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a group of heart disease risk factors that can include obesity, diabetes mellitus, and high blood pressure, among other symptoms1. Other characteristics include high blood sugar, excess weight around the waist or large waist circumference, and atypical cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels2. The underlying feature of all of the factors in MetS is insulin resistance. With more and more people being diagnosed with MetS, it’s important that we understand the implications and risks associated with the condition. Individuals with MetS may have a higher risk of developing certain kinds of cancers, including prostate cancer1.

Metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance

While MetS is associated with being overweight, it’s also associated with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when your body doesn’t have a typical response to insulin. When you eat, the body breaks down food into glucose to be used by the body. Insulin helps glucose to be used by your body as energy. In insulin resistance, the glucose isn’t easily utilized by the body, and glucose levels rise.

The link to prostate cancer

Although there doesn’t seem to be an association between MetS and prostate cancer risk, there seems to be an association between MetS and more aggressive prostate cancer, and high-grade prostate cancers1,3. Gleason scores were higher in those with MetS, and MetS was linked with a 37% increased risk of advanced clinical stage of prostate cancer1. There was also a significant risk of recurrence in those men who also had MetS, even after radical prostatectomy1. The exact mechanisms behind how MetS influence prostate cancer aren’t fully known, but it is hypothesized that MetS might influence hormone levels, which in turn, may affect the aggressiveness of prostate cancer4.

More research needs to be done on associations between metabolic syndrome and prostate cancer, and so although this information may be useful, there is still much that needs to be explored. Talk with your oncology treatment team about your general health and risk factors for MetS, and how this might affect your prostate cancer or treatment outcomes. Each person is different, and your team will be able to provide you with personalized information based on your health history, pathology reports, and current medical situation. Ask the doctor questions about what MetS might mean for the progression of your cancer, as well as the risk of recurrence.

What can you do?

Lifestyle changes are an important part of minimizing the effects of MetS and helping to reduce health risks. This includes regular physical exercise, losing weight, eating a healthy and balanced diet, quitting smoking, and stress management. All of these can help reduce the negative health risks associated with MetS, but more importantly, help improve your overall health and well-being. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors for MetS, whether you need to get evaluated for MetS, or if you know you have MetS, what you should be doing and whether medication might be right for you.

  1. Xiang Y, Xiong H, Cui Z, et al. The association between metabolic syndrome and the risk of prostate cancer, high-grade prostate cancer, advanced prostate cancer, prostate cancer-specific mortality and biochemical recurrence. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2013; 32(1). Doi: 10.1186/1756-9966-32-9
  2. Mayo Clinic. Metabolic Syndrome. 2018. Accessed August 17,2018.
  3. Ornelas CJ, Kamat A. Metabolic Syndrome and Prostate Cancer. UroToday website. July 2018. Accessed August 18, 2018.
  4. Rhee H, Vela I, Chung E. Metabolic syndrome and prostate cancer: A review of complex interplay amongst various endocrine factors in the pathophysiology and progression of prostate cancer. Horm Cancer. 2016; 7(2): 75-83. Accessed August 17, 2018.