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Chronic Inflammation Tied to Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer

Update Date: Apr 18, 2014 10:21 AM EDT

Inflammation is a natural response to foreign substances that infect the body. Even though inflammation is normal, in certain situations, the body triggers a response when no foreign substances are present, which ends up causing harm to the body. In a new study, researchers examined the relationship between chronic inflammation and prostate cancer risk. They found that men who have signs of chronic inflammation in their non-cancerous prostate tissue are more likely to develop cancer in comparison to those that did not have inflammation.

"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," said Elizabeth A. Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the School of Medicine.

For this study, the researchers reviewed data on men who were a part of the Southwest Oncology Group's Prostate Cancer trial, which was testing the effects of a drug called finasteride in preventing prostate cancer. The men that the researchers examined all came from the placebo group in that trial. Data included biopsies and prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, which help predict men's risk of prostate cancer.

The researchers examined the tissue samples from 191 cancer-ridden men and 209 cancer-free men. They measured inflammation levels based on the prevalence and extent of the immune cells. 86.2 percent of the men with prostate cancer had signs of inflammation in at least one tissue sample whereas in the other group, inflammation was apparent in 78.2 percent of the men. The researchers calculated that men with signs of chronic inflammation had a 1.78 times greater chance of developing prostate cancer. They had a 2.24 times higher odds of being diagnosed with aggressive cancer.

"Our study was designed to rule out the bias that would ordinarily exist between the way we detect prostate cancer and the presence of inflammation. Because inflammation makes PSA levels go up, men with inflammation are more likely to have higher PSA and, with a rising PSA, they're more likely to be biopsied," Platz said in the press release. "By doing more biopsies on these men, prostate cancer is more likely to be detected, even if inflammation is not a cause of prostate cancer."

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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