Distant family history indicates prostate cancer risk

New research says having a distant relatives with prostate cancer can indicate a man’s risk of developing the disease himself, according to a new study from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. The study was recently published in the journal Prostate.

Having a family history of prostate cancer is one of the major risk factors indicating a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. When a man has a father or brother with prostate cancer, their risk for developing the disease increases to more than double, according to the American Cancer Society. It is typical for clinicians to ask patients about first-degree relatives, but not so much second-degree relatives.

Researchers have found that questioning patients about second- and even third-degree relatives, such as uncles or great-grandparents, could be equally as important as questioning them about their fathers and brothers. Another important factor was the age at which those relatives were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“Family history is a substantial risk factor for prostate cancer,” said Lisa Cannon-Albright, a University of Utah professor of genetic epidemiology and an investigator at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. “Typically, a clinician will ask a patient whether there are any people in the family with prostate cancer, possibly identifying whether they are first-degree relatives. And that’s about as far as it goes.”

Lead author, Lisa Cannon-Albright, genetic epidemiology professor at the University of Utah, and researchers determined risk estimates for men based on first-, second-, and third-degree relatives. Using the Utah population database, they examined the medical and genealogical information for more than 7.3 million people, most of which who were Caucasian and northern European.

The study showed that two-thirds of Utah men had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer due to family history. Twenty-six percent of men had twice the risk, and ten percent of men had three times the risk, compared to men who did not have a family history of prostate cancer. They also found that maternal family history is just as important as paternal family history.

In regards to the PSA test, the study emphasized that despite evidence that PSA testing can increase the number of prostate cancer diagnoses,

“The clinical application of our findings is especially relevant because there is no consensus on prostate cancer screening,” said co-author Robert A. Stephenson, MD, professor of urologic oncology at the University of Utah. “Knowing prostate cancer risk estimates associated with a man’s detailed family history can help pinpoint the men who will benefit from targeted screening.”


David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
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