How to Give Prostate Cancer the Finger

Finger length on a guy's right hand may be an important marker regarding prostate cancer risk.

January 3, 2011

Finger length may affect prostate cancer risk, but other risk factors are easier to manipulate.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—British researchers have found a correlation between finger length and prostate cancer risk, as reported in a recent issue of Cancer Research U.K. Don't reach for the measuring tape yet, though. Finger length may be fixed, but the findings don't change the need to attend to the prostate cancer risk factors you do have control over.


THE DETAILS: The researchers analyzed right-hand pattern and prostate cancer risk in 1,524 mean with the disease and 3,044 men without the disease. Turns out the men who had a longer index finger than ring finger had a remarkable 33 percent lower risk of getting prostate cancer than men whose index finger was shorter then their ring finger. The decreased risk was even greater among men under 60.

WHAT IT MEANS: This is a bizarre-seeming correlation on the face of it, but there's a connection between fingers and the disease, and it all goes back to the womb. That's when your finger length is determined—in part by the level of testosterone the fetus comes in contact with in the uterus. It's this same intrauterine testosterone that also helps determine cancer risk. Specifically, the U.K. researchers believe that lower prenatal activity of testosterone increases the likelihood of a longer index finger and provides protection against prostate cancer later in life.

At this point, you can't do a thing about that. Nor can you do anything about several of the key prostate cancer risk factors, including age (older men are at higher risk), race (African Americans are at higher risk), and family history. But here's what you can do, according to Howard Soule, PhD, chief science officer at the Prostate Cancer Foundation:

• Keep your weight under control. "Even though this and the other lifestyle factors haven't been clinically proven to lower your risk, it looks like being overweight is a factor,” says Soule. Fat cells, especially abdominal fat, produce biologically active chemicals that seem to drive the progression of the cancer, Soule says. See the weight-loss section to find flab-shedding strategies that match your needs.

• Exercise regularly. "Again, there's no clinical proof of this, but it seems as if exercise may lower prostate cancer risk," says Soule. "This could partly be the positive effect exercise can have on your weight." If you have trouble motivating yourself to exercise, figuring out your exercise personality may help.

• Eat fruits and vegetables. Soule believes the antioxidants in broccoli, cauliflower, and pomegranate may offer protection, but research has shown that a diet high in the antioxidant lycopene may lower risk as well. Lycopene is found in high concentrations in red produce, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon.

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