Researchers have discovered a link between chronic inflammation of the prostate and more aggressive form of prostate cancer. When the body’s immune system is in a constant state of tension or alertness, it can produce this type of inflammation.
The most significant aspect of this discovery is that it could help experts identify more efficient methods of preventing and treating prostate cancer. The disease is currently the second most common cancer (behind skin cancer) amongst men in the US.
“What we’ve shown in this observational study is a clear association between prostate inflammation and prostate cancer, although we can’t prove that inflammation is a cause of prostate cancer,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Platz, one of the lead investigators for this cancer clinical study and a valued colleague at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Maryland.
(A more in-depth report on these findings has been published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.)
Comparing Prostate Tissue Biopsies from Previous Studies
Platz’s team of researchers obtained their data from the control group in the Southwest Oncology Group’s Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, which had been designed to test an experimental drug for prostate cancer prevention. Part of the protocol for the Southwest study had been taking prostate tissue biopsies from the control group regardless of the presence of any red flags for prostate cancer.
Of the 400 men involved in the Southwest Oncology Group trial, Platz and her team identified 191 who had developed prostate cancer. The Hopkins research team then examined prostate tissue samples for signs of inflammation. Here’s what they found:
- 86 percent of the participants that were diagnosed with prostate cancer had at least one tissue sample that exhibited signs of inflammation.
- 78 percent of the participants that did not develop cancer elicited signs of inflammation.
This may not seem like a significant difference, but Dr. Platz thinks otherwise. Her team noted that the subjects whose tissue samples had shown indications for inflammation were nearly twice as likely to develop prostate cancer. In fact, further analysis shows that these men are even more likely to develop an aggressive form of the disease.
There’s No Research Bias Here
This cancer study is notable as it gave researchers a chance to examine tissue samples taken from men who otherwise would not have ever needed a biopsy. This helps to negate a bias that would have otherwise needed to be accounted for in a clinical trial of this kind.
It should also be noted that the type of inflammation Platz examined is asymptomatic, so you wouldn’t even know if you have it. This inflammation is actually quite common, and Platz is already very interested in learning how it might affect a person’s long-term risk for prostate cancer.
In fact, she and her colleagues have already begun working on a prospective study that could confirm this association between inflammation and prostate cancer.
“If our findings hold up, we need to figure out how to prevent inflammation in the prostate and how to intervene on inflammation in the prostate,” stated Platz. “At this time, it’s not known.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t too much that men can do differently based on the findings of this preliminary study. The most important thing they can do is continue to make healthier lifestyle choices in general. We recommend focusing on eating less red meat and exercising regularly to start out.