April 20, 2016
“We show that high dietary saturated fat content is associated with increased prostate cancer aggressiveness,” said Emma Allott, PhD, a study co-author and research assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School. “This may suggest that limiting dietary saturated fat content, which we know is important for overall health and cardiovascular disease prevention, may also have a role in prostate cancer.”
The results were drawn from a survey of 1,854 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2004 and 2009 in North Carolina and in Louisiana as part of a larger study called the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project.
Men were asked a series of questions about their diet and other factors at the time of diagnosis with prostate cancer, and researchers then examined the association between saturated fat intake and the aggressiveness of the men’s tumor at diagnosis. The study co-authors adjusted dietary saturated fat for total fat intake in their statistical models in order to tease apart the effects of saturated fat from total fat intake, and gauged tumor aggressiveness using the results of the patients’ prostate cancer-specific antigen, or PSA, tests, as well as the clinical stage of their cancer and its Gleason grade.
The research team found that higher saturated fat intake was linked to increased prostate cancer aggressiveness. Allott explained that high saturated fat content in the diet contributes to raised blood cholesterol levels, and the researchers also learned from the study that men taking statins — drugs used to control cholesterol levels — had weaker associations between saturated fat intake and prostate cancer aggressiveness.
These findings may suggest that statins counteract, but do not completely reverse, the effects of high saturated fat intake on prostate cancer aggressiveness. In addition, researchers found that higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, which are found in foods such as fish and nuts, were linked to lower levels of prostate cancer aggressiveness.