Fingerprint in the blood is linked to prostate cancer risk

A link between ‘fingerprints’ in the blood and prostate cancer risk has been uncovered in a large new study, part-funded by World Cancer Research Fund.

5 July 2017

The study, published in BMC Medicine, looks at a new area of research – metabolomics – which measures small molecules in the blood called metabolites. The study found that levels of different metabolites that make up an individual’s metabolic ‘fingerprint’ in the blood were associated with their risk of developing prostate cancer.

The levels of different metabolites present in someone’s blood are partly determined by diet and lifestyle. The ‘fingerprint’ of metabolites in the blood could therefore provide new insights into how diet and lifestyle can affect prostate cancer risk.

The study also found that these blood ‘fingerprints’ (metabolite patterns) linked to prostate cancer risk were different for aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer. This could provide further clues on how and why diet and lifestyle affect the risk of different types of prostate cancer.

It is also possible that in the future these metabolites could be looked for in blood tests to detect prostate cancer early.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer death in men in the UK. About 1 in 10 cases of advanced prostate cancer – the most deadly type - could be prevented each year in the UK if everyone were to maintain a healthy weight.

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

“This groundbreaking research is linking the different components in blood with prostate cancer risk. Its ultimate aim is to tell a story of how diet and lifestyle can help prevent prostate cancer.

“We already know that maintaining a healthy weight is important for helping prevent aggressive types of prostate cancer.

“If more risk factors for prostate cancer are uncovered, we could prevent many more cases, particularly the more aggressive types.”

Dr Ruth Travis, lead researcher on this project at University of Oxford, said:
“This new field of research is a complete game-changer as it has the potential to uncover many more clues on what we can do to help prevent prostate cancer through diet and lifestyle.

“The next stages of this project will give us a greater understanding than ever before on how diet can affect prostate cancer risk and could reveal previously unknown dietary risk factors for this disease.”


For more information contact:

Lucy Eccles, Press and Communications Officer at WCRF on 020 7343 4235 or

Notes to editors:

About World Cancer Research Fund

For over 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

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About the research

This large study was a case-control analysis nested within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Stored blood samples, which had been donated at recruitment by healthy men, were analysed for more than 120 different metabolites and results were compared for men who did and did not go onto develop prostate cancer (prostate cancer cases and matched cancer free controls). Risk of prostate cancer associated with metabolite concentrations was then calculated for prostate cancer risk overall and by tumour subtype.