Body Composition May Offer ‘Clues’ to Prostate Cancer Survival

Poor body composition was associated with increased risk of death in men with localized prostate cancer, according to recent study findings.

Body composition may play a role in the survival outcomes of men with localized prostate cancer, according to a study that was recently published in the journal, Cancer.

The trial findings showed that men with poorer body composition (those with decreased bone density and muscle mass and increased fat) tended to have a higher chance of dying from something other than prostate cancer — highlighting the importance of healthy habits for patients with prostate cancer.

“One of the things I always tell … men with non-metastatic prostate cancer is that he is more likely to die of something besides prostate cancer — like a heart attack or another cancer — so I would encourage them to make positive life changes to help get healthy,” study author Dr. Andrew McDonald, assistant professor and director of the Radiation Oncology Residency Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine, said in an interview with CURE®.

McDonald and his team analyzed body composition data — which included muscle mass, muscle density and bone density — as well as comorbidities and other health factors from 2,066 men who were treated with radiation for localized prostate cancer. Data was pulled from the NRG/Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) 9406 and NRG/RTOG 0126 databases, and included CT scans and other patient characteristics.

The researchers then looked at outcomes and calculated patients’ risk of death.

“(We asked) can we use these scans to figure out something about these patients’ body composition at the time of treatment that can give us a clue to what their long-term outcomes may be?” McDonald said.

While poor body composition was associated with deaths from something other than prostate cancer, findings showed that it may not affect mortality or cure from the actual disease. However, McDonald still stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy figure, especially since prostate cancer treatments may negative affect bone and muscle mass.

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“For men with prostate cancer, one of the treatments that we give is hormonal deprivation, androgen deprivation therapy, castration therapy … however you want to say it,” McDonald said. “We know that when we remove a man's testosterone, it can also affect his body composition, his physical phenotype, men who have their testosterone deprived, they tend to gain body fat and lose lean muscle mass and lose some bone mineralization or bone density.”

McDonald said that the interaction between body composition and prostate cancer should continue to be studied, and his team’s recent findings may pave the way for how future clinical trials are structured.

“Moving forward, a better ability to predict death from competing risks will help design future clinical trials,” he concluded.

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