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Prostate Cancer Risk Proven to be Highest with Family History

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A large study shows that the risk of prostate cancer becomes highest for men with a family history of the disease. Men with more direct relatives who develop prostate cancer run the highest risk, making the findings important for clinicians when it comes to screening men for the disease.

The findings come from one of the largest studies conducted on the risk of prostate cancer for men whose family members have also been diagnosed with the disease. The risk of prostate cancer has been associated with heredity, but until now scientists have not had a complete understanding of the importance of screening younger men with family history of the disease and who is most at risk.

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Researchers found that men with 3 direct family members diagnosed with prostate cancer have 23 times the risk of also developing cancer, up to age 65. The lowest risk associated with family history occurs between age 65 and 74 for paternal family history, and is just 1.8 times higher compared to men with no family members with cancer. Men with family history of prostate cancer diagnosed at a younger age are more at risk.

Kari Hemminki, study author says, "Our results provide a good guidance for doctors. If a man has several affected relatives who may even have been diagnosed at a young age, then his personal risk is substantially increased. In this case, a family doctor should urgently recommend having an early detection examination.”

Prostate cancer screening has become a controversy, making it difficult for men to understand when to get screened. Treatment options also vary, and some prostate cancers may not need treatment. Predicting who will develop aggressive prostate cancer has also become a focus.

The new study shows that family history of prostate cancer is a genuine indication for surveillance. Men with prostate cancer in the immediate family should receive prostate cancer screening early say the researchers. The study included 26,651 prostate cancer patients - 5,623 came from families in which the disease had been diagnosed before.

German Cancer Research Center