Obese men with initially benign biopsies have a greater risk of precancerous lesionss and a greater chance for developing prostate cancer later, a new study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention finds.

Researchers at the Henry Ford Health System followed 494 patients and 494 case-control matches for 14 years after an initial biopsy with benign findings. Obesity at the time of the initial procedure was associated with an increased incidence of prostate cancer at a follow-up test by 57 percent.

The study, co-authored by Benjamin Rybicki, Ph.D. of the Henry Ford Health System, establishes a stronger relationship between obesity and prostate cancer compared to previous conflicting research. The higher incidence of prostate cancer could be explained by the fact that the population examined was already a high-risk group that received more surveillance testing.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among men with 238,590 new cases and 29,720 deaths projected in 2013, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, behind lung cancer.

Obesity has been linked with an increased risk of many cancers, including esophageal, colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and postmenopausal breast cancer. The NCI estimates that in 2007, 4 percent of new cases of cancer in men and 7 percent of new cases in women were due to obesity in the U.S. As much as 40 percent of esophageal adenocarcinoma and endometrial cancer may be caused by obesity.

While the biological connection between obesity and prostate cancer is unknown, it may result from the simple fact that obese men have larger prostates.

"It is possible that the tumors missed by initial biopsy grew and were detected in a follow-up biopsy," said Andrew Rundle, Dr.P.H., associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. "Obesity should be considered a factor for more intensive follow-up after a benign prostate biopsy."

With over 60 percent of the U.S. adult population being overweight or obese, these findings could have far-reaching consequences.

For more on the relationship between cancer risk and obesity, visit the NIH.