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Fat and Cancer Cells: Lose it or They Use It

Fat and Cancer Cells: Lose it or They Use It

Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretsky: Imagine them descending on your goal . . . and you’ve never played hockey before. Well, if you’re obese and get cancer, your chances of fighting off the attack are about as good as your ability to defend that goal. Why? It seems mature adiposites (fat cells) secrete chemicals that cancer cells love to skate on.

A recent study published in Nature reveals that in prostate cancer, cancer cells can move on the fatty tissue that surrounds the prostate (called periprostatic adipose tissue) and spread quickly to other organs. Since obese folks have more of this adipose tissue and each cell is larger than normal, they’re at much higher risk of having their cancer metastasize. One more thing. The researchers also found that when you block the channel that periprostatic adipose tissue provides to cancer cells, you prevent cancer migration.

While the five-year survival rate for early-stage prostate cancer is near 100 percent, for those in whom it has spread to distant body parts, it falls to 28 percent. So if you become (or are) one of the more than 220,800 men in North America diagnosed with prostate cancer annually, make sure you’re not packing extra fat around your belly or your prostate. Start walking 10,000 steps a day (get a pedometer and a walking buddy) and eliminate all added sugars and syrups (sugar fuels some cancers), red meat (ditto), processed foods and trans fats from your diet. You’ll have a much better chance of blocking prostate cancer’s slapshot!

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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