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Prostate Cancer Risk and Family History

Genetics play an important role in determining prostate cancer risk. Whether you are Caucasian or African-American, or a citizen of the United States or Japan, family history is a strong factor for prostate cancer predisposition. Having a father who developed prostate cancer at a younger age does not automatically mean that you too will develop prostate cancer.  However, men with first-degree relatives with prostate cancer should be wary of developing the disease.

One First-Degree Relative and Prostate Cancer Risk
By now, you have probably heard the widely-quoted statistic: 1 in 6 men will develop prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime. Having one first-degree relative with prostate cancer, however, dramatically increases your risk: one first-degree relative increases your chances to 1 in 3.

A first-degree relative is considered someone of immediate relation, such as a mother, father, sibling, or child. Men with one first-degree relative, such as a father or brother, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, should begin prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing and digital rectal exams (DRE’s) at age 40. Men who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer should emphasize the importance of early testing to their sons.

More than One First-Degree Relative with Prostate Cancer
If you have more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer, say, your father and brother, or your father and two brothers, your risk of developing prostate cancer is even higher than 1 in 3. However, let a relative’s diagnosis be a heads-up to you that early testing can catch possible cases of cancer while they are still in early stages and while more prostate cancer treatment options are available to you.

Age Affects Inherited Prostate Cancer Risk and Prognosis
If you have a first-degree family member who has prostate cancer or who has been treated for prostate cancer, ask yourself at what age they developed prostate cancer. Some doctors believe that if all men were to live long enough that they would all develop prostate cancer. If a man has a father who develops prostate cancer when he is 85 or even older, the genetic and statistical risk to that man is minimal. If he follows the same course of prostate cancer as his father, he is more likely to develop a less aggressive form of the disease. However, if another man has a father who is diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 50, that man should begin testing as early as age 40.

Doctors and researchers do not understand the direct connection of prostate cancer to genetics. It is possible that learned dietary habits, occupation, location, or other environmental factors may contribute to an increased risk. However, statistical analysis does observe a correlation between generations for prostate cancer. Remember, having a first-degree relative with prostate cancer does not mean that you will one day develop prostate cancer. However, men with family histories of prostate cancer are encouraged to begin early testing through PSA tests and DRE exams.


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