Severe acne in adolescence may greatly increase an individual’s risk of prostate cancer later in life, according to research published in the International Journal of Cancer.1

The etiology of prostate cancer is poorly understood, though recent research suggests that Propionibacterium acnes, which is associated with acne vulgaris, is more likely to be present in the prostatic tissue of patients with the disease than in healthy individuals.

For this prospective population-based study, researchers reviewed the data of 284,198 males born between 1952 and 1956. Nearly all (more than 99% of) included individuals underwent conscription examinations in the 1970s; most individuals were examined at 18 or 19 years old. After excluding individuals with another primary malignancy prior to prostate cancer, missing data, or errors in health information, 243,187 were included in the analysis.

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The median follow-up was 36.7 years, during which 1633 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. After adjusting for birth year, household crowding, and body mass index, among other factors, the authors calculated a hazard ratio (HR) for prostate cancer of 1.43 among those with acne in adolescence, with a higher HR for advanced disease (HR, 2.37).

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Individuals with severe acne had an adjusted HR for prostate cancer of 5.7, suggesting that the severity of P. acnes infection may be positively correlated with prostate cancer risk.

The authors concluded that “the results of this prospective cohort-study supports [sic] the hypothesis that P. acnes may play a role in prostate cancer. Whether the association is explained by P. acnes, host factors associated with specific immune responses, hormonal or other factors, remains to be investigated further.”


  1. Ugge H, Udumyan R, Carlsson J, et al. Acne in late adolescence and risk of prostate cancer. Int J Cancer. 2017 Dec 4. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31192 [Epub ahead of print]