Risk of urinary incontinence following prostatectomy: the role of physical activity and obesity

J Urol. 2010 Feb;183(2):629-33. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2009.09.082. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


Purpose: Urinary incontinence is one of the most commonly reported and distressing side effects of radical prostatectomy for prostate carcinoma. Several studies have suggested that symptoms may be worse in obese men but to our knowledge no research has addressed the joint effects of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. We evaluated the association of obesity and lack of physical activity with urinary incontinence in a sample of men who had undergone radical prostatectomy.

Materials and methods: Height and weight were abstracted from charts, and obesity was defined as body mass index 30 kg/m(2) or greater. Men completed a questionnaire before surgery that included self-report of vigorous physical activity. Men who reported 1 hour or more per week of vigorous activities were considered physically active. Men reported their incontinence to the surgeon at their urology visits. Information on incontinence was abstracted from charts at 6 and 58 weeks after surgery.

Results: At 6 weeks after surgery 59% (405) of men were incontinent, defined as any pad use. At 58 weeks after surgery 22% (165) of men were incontinent. At 58 weeks incontinence was more prevalent in men who were obese and physically inactive (59% incontinent). Physical activity may offset some of the negative consequences of being obese because the prevalence of incontinence at 58 weeks was similar in the obese and active (25% incontinent), and nonbese and inactive (24% incontinent) men. The best outcomes were in men who were nonobese and physically active (16% incontinent). Men who were not obese and were active were 26% less likely to be incontinent than men who were obese and inactive (RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.52-1.06).

Conclusions: Pre-prostatectomy physical activity and obesity may be important factors in post-prostatectomy continence levels. Interventions aimed at increasing physical activity and decreasing weight in patients with prostate cancer may improve quality of life by offsetting the negative side effects of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Prostatectomy / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / etiology*