Health of Survivors of Prostate Cancer

Survivors of prostate cancer treatment tend to suffer more health problems than other men of a similar age. After cancer treatment, particularly if on Hormone treatment, patients can lose previous fitness levels and put on weight. More than 30% will die of cardiovascular disease.

Health related problems caused by your prostate cancer treatment are likely to be even greater if you are overweight, have high blood pressure or are a smoker. Some cancer treatments can also cause an increase in weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, all of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Low Testosterone

Around 50 per cent of prostate cancer patients receive Hormone treatment which lowers the levels of testosterone in the body (prostate cancer thrives on testosterone). Unfortunately, low levels of testosterone encourage the body to store fat around the abdomen (tummy), a bit like a ‘spare tyre’. We need fat under the skin to keep us warm, but fat stored around the abdomen is different. Having a lot of abdominal fat is linked with an increased risk of advanced or aggressive prostate cancer. Abdominal fat produces substances which cause inflammation and also prevents sugar getting into the parts of the body it needs to reach. To compensate, insulin production increases and this promotes insulin-like growth factor (IGF) which can stimulate the growth of prostate cancer.

Abdominal fat

Low testosterone levels caused by some prostate cancer treatments can also cause muscle wastage which, combined with an increase in weight, makes exercise more difficult. So a cycle often develops where a man becomes heavier and more unfit as time goes on, leaving him vulnerable to health problems even if his prostate cancer has been successfully treated.

Hormone treatment can change the way your body handles fat in as little as three weeks, so these health changes can happen quickly.

For a man, if your waist size is 94cm (37 inches) or more, you’re likely to be overweight. This means you have a higher risk of health problems, possibly including aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.