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How Family History Influences the Risk of Prostate Cancer

It is a known fact that men with a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease. A Swedish research team has calculated just how much having a father and/or brother with prostate cancer increases the risk. They also discovered how likely it is for a man with family history of the disease will get an aggressive or mild type of prostate cancer.

It is important for men to get screenings for prostate cancer so they have more information regarding the risks of getting an aggressive type of prostate cancer. This way they can make personal decisions about treatment. The problem is that screening for prostate is not perfect because it sometimes misses cancer or finds something else which is harmless. There are no reliable tests yet for differentiating between the mild and aggressive cancer.

Recommendation from the American Cancer Society states that men with a family history of prostate cancer should confer with their doctor at the age of 40-50 years about testing. African American men are at a higher risk of this disease and should see their doctor at an earlier age.

The medical records of 52,000 Swedish men with fathers and brothers who had prostate cancer found that;

  • Men who had a brother with prostate cancer were twice at higher risk of getting diagnosed before the age of 75 years. Men without family history have only 13% risk.
  • Men with a brother who has prostate cancer have a 9% risk of getting the aggressive type of prostate cancer at 75 years of age compared to the other men with 5%.
  • Men with a father and brother with prostate cancer had three times the risk of getting diagnosed with prostate cancer. Their chance of getting any other type of prostate cancer was 48% compared with the 13% among the other men.
  • Men with both a father and brother who have prostate cancer have about 14% chance of developing the aggressive type of prostate cancer at the age of 75 compared to the 5% in other men.

It was found that while the number of family members with prostate cancer affects the risk, their type of prostate cancer did not have a strong effect on risk. The results of the study provide men with better risk estimates to consider when deciding to get tested, but they should remember that the study concentrated on Swedish men only. It is not clear yet how well these results would apply to men with a different genetic constitution such as African Americans.