Genetic Testing Can Now Identify Men With A High Risk of Prostate Cancer

Getty/Christopher Furlong

Scientists can now explain a third of the inherited risk of prostate cancer, after a major international study identified 23 new genetic variants associated with increased risk of the disease.

The study brings the total number of common genetic variants linked to prostate cancer to 100, and testing for them can identify 1% of men with a risk of the disease almost six times as high as the population average.

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and in Cambridge, UK, and California led a search for new genetic variants including almost 90,000 men and for the first time combining populations with European, African, Japanese and Latino ancestry.

The research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, was funded by Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer UK, the EU and the National Institutes for Health in the US.

Researchers found that assessing the top 100 variants identified 10% of men with a risk almost three times as high as the population average.

The scientists now plan a new clinical trial to test whether genetic screening can be effective.
The study means that scientists can now explain 33% of the inherited origins of prostate cancer in European men.

A new clinical trial called BARCODE, which aims to genetically screen 5,000 men for prostate cancer, will investigate if these genetic markers can improve on other tests for the disease.

Professor Ros Eeles at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, says the study tells us more about the effect of the genetic hand that men are dealt on their risk of prostate cancer.

“We can now explain a third of the inherited risk of prostate cancer, and will shortly be conducting a clinical trial to find out whether testing for genetic variants in men can successfully pick up the disease early, and help direct targeted interventions for patients,” he says.

The researchers want to find which of the genetic variants can show whether a man’s cancer is aggressive and likely to go on to kill him, or one that may never cause any harm.

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