Harvard Men's Health Watch

Medical memo: Paternity and prostate cancer: Can a look down the family tree provide clues?

Medical memo

Paternity and prostate cancer: Can a look down the family tree provide clues?

 Scientists don't know what causes prostate cancer, but heredity certainly plays a role. In 1998, scientists discovered the first prostate cancer gene, which they named HPC1. Since then, a number of other prostate cancer genes have been identified. Together with mutations that have not yet come to light, they help explain why men with a strong family history of prostate cancer face an increased risk of developing the disease.

In a sense, these important genetic studies look up the family tree to hunt for factors in previous generations that might affect a man's chances of developing prostate cancer. But can a man's offspring also provide clues? According to two studies of paternity and prostate cancer, the answer is perhaps.

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