Your acne’s not preventing your risk for prostate cancer

Even though we don’t remember ever coming across this suggestion before, a few studies have apparently suggested that having acne is associated with a decreased risk for a diagnosis of prostate cancer — and aggressive forms of prostate cancer in particular.

If it was actually true that there was a clear, inverse association between having common acne (so-called “acne vulgaris”, caused by the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes) and risk for prostate cancer, then clearly patient self-reporting of a history of acne might be a useful way to identify men who had relatively lower risk for prostate cancer, i.e., a good “marker” for lower risk.

Cremers et al. have now tried to determine whether there is a real association between self-reported acne and the occurrence of prostate cancer based on data from some 3,000 prostate cancer patients and other, randomly selected members of the male population in the Nijmegen area of The Netherlands.

Here is what Cremers et al. report:

  • The study enrollees included
    • 942 prostate cancer patients, recruited from a prostate cancer registry established between 2003 and 2006 (of whom 647 or 68.7 percent met criteria for having aggressive prostate cancers) — the “case” group
    • 2,062 randomly selected males — the “referent” group
  • All study enrollees completed a questionnaire on risk factors for cancer, including questions about acne.
  • A history of acne was reported by
    • 320/942 men in the case group (33.9 percent)
    • 739/2,062 men in the referent group (35.8 percent)
  • Self-reported acne was not significantly associated, either positively or negatively, with either
    • A diagnosis of prostate cancer (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.95
    • A diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer (aOR = 0.97)

The authors conclude that a history of self-reported acne is not suitable as a marker to identify men at low risk of aggressive prostate cancer (at least among largely Dutch men living in and near Nijmegen), which, quite frankly, comes as no surprise to us at all.

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