Researchers at Umeå University and Lund University in Sweden have shown in a recent study how having a family history of prostate cancer is linked to a man’s likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease. While past research on the subject has demonstrated an increased risk of prostate cancer in those with a family history of the disease, researchers in Sweden have, for the first time, estimated the risk of developing various types of prostate cancer for men with brothers and/or fathers with the disease.
“It is a well-known fact that men with a family history of prostate cancer run an increased risk of developing the disease. The risk for brothers of men with prostate cancer is doubled. But a doubled risk of what, exactly? Prostate cancer may be an indolent condition that does not require treatment, or aggressive and fatal. Obviously, it makes a big difference whether a man has an increased risk of developing the indolent or the aggressive form, but until now these different risks have not been known.”
Pär Stattin, researcher at the Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences
For the study, researchers at Umeå University and Lund University analyzed the prostate cancer risk in 51,897 men in Sweden taking part in Prostate Cancer data Base Sweden (PCBaSe) whose brothers and fathers already had prostate cancer. They found that men with one brother with prostate cancer had a 30% risk of being diagnosed themselves before the age of 75, compared with 13% among other men who didn’t have a family history of the disease. The risk was further increased when men had both a father and a brother with prostate cancer, increasing to a 48% risk of any form of prostate cancer, compared with 13% among other men, and a 14% of developing an aggressive form of the cancer, compared with 5% among other men.
The risk of an aggressive prostate cancer was typically as high in those whose brothers or fathers had the mildest form as those who had an aggressive prostate cancer in the family, researchers stated.
“We had expected that the risk of aggressive prostate cancer would be particularly lower in men with favourable cancer in the family, but that wasn’t the case. Men whose fathers or brothers had a favourable prostate cancer don’t usually think that increases their own risk of developing aggressive cancer. They might not even know that they have prostate cancer in the family,” says Ola Bratt, first author of the study and researcher at Lund University.
Speaking on the significance of the study results, Stattin commented saying: “Prostate cancer is often a rather indolent disease with favorable prognosis that often doesn’t require treatment but there are also aggressive types that can be mortal. The ability to differ between these types is therefore important. Up until now, there has been no knowledge about the absolute magnitudes of these risks.” National guidelines for prostate cancer states that men with two or more close relatives with prostate cancer should be recommended for prostate screenings starting between 40 to 50 years of age. The results of their study can be found online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.