In Prostate Cancer, How Much Does Family History Matter?
Some cancers run in families, we are often told. Yet just how much of a role does family history play in increasing the risk of cancer? Zeroing in on prostate cancer, researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) decided to find out. In the largest study ever published on familial prostate cancer, Kari Hemminki and colleagues analyzed questionnaires from 26,651 prostate cancer patients, over 5,000 of whom came from families where someone else had had the disease.
Their investigation showed that the more direct a mans relatives, the higher his risk of getting prostate cancer. (Brothers and fathers are considered the closest relatives.) Running the numbers, the researchers then calculated that men up to the age of 65 with three affected brothers have 23 times the risk of men without affected family members. Men between the ages of 65 and 74 years whose fathers were the only ones who had prostate cancer, had a 1.8 times greater risk. The researchers also found that the younger a mans relatives were at the time of their diagnosis, the greater his risk of developing cancer, too.
This study is particularly newsworthy because some experts argue that men who have relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer often get alarmed and have early detection exams, leading to overdiagnosis (some prostate tumors may never end up causing symptoms during a mans lifetime). But the DKFZ research shows that men with a familial history of prostate cancer may bear watching. "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," says Hemminki.
Source: Helmhotz Association of German Research Centres