Inflammation, biomarkers, and risk for prostate cancer

Whether there is any real association (let alone a cause and effect correlation) between clinically evident or subclinical inflammatory disorders and risk for prostate cancer is still not known — although long suspected.

In most of the large, population-based studies published to date, the possibility of an association between inflammation and prostate cancer has been evaluated by assessing levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). However, findings from these studies have been inconsistent.

In a newly published, retrospective analysis, based on data from four groups of men (n=34,891), according to age (45, 55, 65, and 75 years) at cohort entry, Van Hemelrijck et al. have investigated whether — in addition to non-high-sensitivity CRP — levels of glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, haptoglobin, albumin, hemoglobin, and leukocytes (all of which can be used to assess tissue inflammation in differing ways) could be shown to have any association with risk for prostate cancer.

The key results of the study were as follows:

  • Numbers of men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer were
    • 49/12,063 (0.4 percent) in the 45-year-old age group
    • 207/9,940 (2.1 percent) in the 55-year-old age group
    • 472/8,266 (5.7 percent) in the 65-year-old age group
    • 276/3,618 (7.6 percent) in the 75-year-old age group
  • Mean follow-up time was 7.5 ± 3.9 years.
  • None of the markers of inflammation was associated with risk for prostate cancer at all.
  • There was no demonstrable trend toward differing risk for prostate cancer based on specific elevated levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, or triglycerides.

Does this mean there is no association whatsoever between inflammatory conditions and prostate cancer risk? We can’t draw that conclusion from a study like this. What can be recognized, however, is that if there is such an association we still don’t have any known marker or group of markers that can demonstrate this hypothesis convincingly.

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