is prostate cancer genetic

Is prostate cancer genetic?

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America. Almost 165,000 men each year are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the US.  Sadly, more than 29,000 will die from the disease. Being a silent killer, many men wonder if it is a genetic or hereditary disease. Knowing the answer to this question may help men detect cancer earlier and get the right treatment as soon as possible.

What do prostate cancer studies show?

There have been many genetic prostate cancer studies so far. This way, scientists have found that prostate cancer proved to be hereditary in some cases. Prostate cancer seems to run in families.

Did you know that having a brother or father with prostate cancer doubles your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer?

The prostate cancer risk is higher if you have a brother with prostate cancer than if you have your father suffering from it. But if both of them have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, then you need to go check your prostate asap.

In this regard, if you have more prostate cancer cases in your family, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with a urologist. Professional advice can mean a lot in this situation.

The age when a close relative was diagnosed with prostate cancer is also an important factor. The younger your relative was diagnosed, the greater are your chances to develop the disease.

But you probably wonder: What makes prostate cancer hereditary? Basically, it is all related to three inherited genes, as explained below.

Gene changes that make prostate cancer hereditary

There are 3 known genes responsible for prostate cancer: BRCA1, BRCA2, and HOXB13 genes. 

As a matter of fact, prostate cancer forms when the prostate cells start to divide in an uncontrollable manner. This rapid growth forms malignant tumors, resulting in cancer. What dictates the cells division are the genes. If you inherit genes mutations from your parents or other relatives, then your chances to get prostate cancer are higher.

BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes mutations are linked also to other cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Especially the mutations in BRCA2 are causing prostate cancer.

Variants in the BRCA1, BRCA2, and HOXB13 genes are inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. This means that one copy of the mutated gene in each cell is enough to increase a person’s chance of developing cancer.

In some other instances, there is no clear evidence of prostate cancer inheritance. There are also men who develop this disease without having a family history of prostate cancer.

Also, researchers have found that men with Lynch syndrome have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

However, please note that you will never inherit the disease, but the risk of developing prostate cancer.  Men with a family history of prostate cancer have a 1 in 5 chance of getting the disease themselves.

What are genes mutations and how do they cause prostate cancer?

The genes are formed in the DNA. The DNA dictates to every cell in the body which proteins to make. A genetic mutation happens when a part of the normal DNA that makes up a gene changes.

Some mutations are inherited, meaning that they run in families and can be passed down from one member to another. But there are also mutations that can be caused after birth. Some lifestyle and environmental changes may lead to these mutations.

Genetic mutations can be passed down from parents to their children, regardless of gender.

But how will you know if you are at risk for prostate cancer?

Genetic test for prostate cancer

Scientists’ findings that prostate cancer is genetically linked to some genes mutations have led to a better diagnosis of the disease. Now it is possible to identify earlier what is your risk of prostate cancer. This identification is based on prostate cancer genetic tests.

These are simple blood or even saliva tests. Talk with your physician about your worries and he will give you the counsel you need in this regard. There are also genetic counselors who can provide professional advice. If you have identified a risk factor in your case, it is advisable to talk to a urologist or pathologist. Clinical genetic testing is way more accurate than any other online test you may find on the internet.

Biomarker testing for prostate cancer

Besides the typical genetic testing for prostate cancer, Biomarker testing is also available.

This prostate cancer test is also known as somatic testing or tumor testing.  In order to be performed, a biopsy sample should be taken from your prostate gland. After that, the pathologist will look for different characteristics of cancer, including genetic aspects.

Your urologist will recommend what type of testing is necessary in your case.

How can genetic tests for prostate cancer help you?

The results of the genetic tests can provide you with a lot of information regarding your risk and what next steps you should take.

For example, here are some benefits:

  • You will know what screening frequency you should follow – For example, if you have prostate cancer genes mutations but have not been diagnosed with prostate cancer yet, you will need to get screened more often.
  • You will benefit from better treatment options – Being diagnosed with prostate cancer, but knowing that it is genetic, may lead to better prostate cancer treatment in your case. Men with specific mutations respond better to specific drugs.
  • You will motivate your family members to act – You can help your family member understand that there is a prostate cancer risk in your family. This way, they can also go and get screened.

However, always remember that genetic testing for prostate cancer is just the first step in the diagnosis and even prevention process. If more and more men become aware of their own risk, advanced cancers will start to decline. You should take advantage of the technological and scientific progress that has been made so far. Genetics, as part of medicine, is a great helper when it comes to early diagnosis. Talk with your urologist today about your options!


Dr. David Samadi | Robotic Prostate Surgeon

About is a resource created by Dr. David Samadi in order to raise awareness and get more men to receive prostate cancer treatment. The information is strictly general and you should always discuss with your doctor issues concerning your health.


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