Difference in Association of Obesity With Prostate Cancer Risk Between US African American and Non-Hispanic White Men in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT)

JAMA Oncol. 2015 Jun;1(3):342-9. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0513.


Importance: African American men have the highest rates of prostate cancer incidence and mortality in the United States. Understanding underlying reasons for this disparity could identify preventive interventions important to African American men.

Objective: To determine whether the association of obesity with prostate cancer risk differs between African American and non-Hispanic white men and whether obesity modifies the excess risk associated with African American race.

Design, setting, and participants: Prospective study of 3398 African American and 22,673 non-Hispanic white men who participated in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (2001-2011) with present analyses completed in 2014.

Main outcomes and measures: Total, low-grade (Gleason score <7), and high-grade (Gleason score ≥7) prostate cancer incidence.

Results: With a median (interquartile range) follow-up of 5.6 (1.8) years, there were 270, 148, and 88 cases of total, low-, and high-grade prostate cancers among African American men and a corresponding 1453, 898, and 441 cases in non-Hispanic white men, respectively. Although not associated with risk among non-Hispanic white men, BMI was positively associated with an increase in risk among African American men (BMI, <25 vs ≥35: hazard ratio [HR], 1.49 [95% CI, 0.95, 2.34]; P for trend = .03). Consequently, the risk associated with African American race increased from 28% (HR, 1.28 [95% CI, 0.91-1.80]) among men with BMI less than 25 to 103% (HR, 2.03 [95% CI, 1.38-2.98]) among African American men with BMI at least 35 (P for trend = .03). Body mass index was inversely associated with low-grade prostate cancer risk within non-Hispanic white men (BMI, <25 vs ≥35: HR, 0.80 [95% CI, 0.58-1.09]; P for trend = .02) but positively associated with risk within African American men (BMI, <25 vs ≥35: HR, 2.22 [95% CI, 1.17-4.21]; P for trend = .05). Body mass index was positively associated with risk of high-grade prostate cancer in both non-Hispanic white men (BMI, <25 vs ≥35: HR, 1.33 [95% CI, 0.90-1.97]; P for trend = .01) and African American men, although the increase may be larger within African American men, albeit the racial interaction was not statistically significant (BMI, <25 vs ≥35: HR, 1.81 [95% CI, 0.79-4.11]; P for trend = .02).

Conclusions and relevance: Obesity is more strongly associated with increased prostate cancer risk among African American than non-Hispanic white men and reducing obesity among African American men could reduce the racial disparity in cancer incidence. Additional research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the differential effects of obesity in African American and non-Hispanic white men.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Black or African American*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Puerto Rico / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use*
  • White People*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium