Background: High cholesterol may be a modifiable risk factor for prostate cancer but results have been inconsistent and subject to potential "reverse causality" where undetected disease modifies cholesterol prior to diagnosis.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 12,926 men who were enrolled in the Midspan studies between 1970 and 1976 and followed up to 31st December 2007. We used Cox-Proportional Hazards Models to evaluate the association between baseline plasma cholesterol and Gleason grade-specific prostate cancer incidence. We excluded cancers detected within at least 5 years of cholesterol assay.
Results: 650 men developed prostate cancer in up to 37 years' follow-up. Baseline plasma cholesterol was positively associated with hazard of high grade (Gleason score≥8) prostate cancer incidence (n = 119). The association was greatest among men in the 2nd highest quintile for cholesterol, 6.1 to < 6.69 mmol/l, Hazard Ratio 2.28, 95% CI 1.27 to 4.10, compared with the baseline of < 5.05 mmol/l. This association remained significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking and socioeconomic status.
Conclusions: Men with higher cholesterol are at greater risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer but not overall risk of prostate cancer. Interventions to minimise metabolic risk factors may have a role in reducing incidence of aggressive prostate cancer.