Breast cancer genes pose threat to prostate health, too

Nancy Ferrari

Senior editor, Harvard Health

Men whose mothers, daughters, or sisters have tested positive for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 may want to find out if they carry the genes. Studies have shown that BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men without them. Now a British study suggests that these men are also more likely to suffer from more aggressive forms of the disease.

The researchers collected 20 tissue samples from men with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and compared them with samples from patients with similar characteristics — age, prostate disease stage, and PSA level — but not the genes. Men with the genes had significantly higher Gleason scores than those in the control group. Higher Gleason scores are associated with more aggressive cancer and poorer outcome.

Targeted screening of male BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers, the researchers say, could detect prostate disease at an earlier stage, possibly improving a patient’s chances of a successful treatment.

SOURCE: Mitra A, Risher C, Foster CS, et al. Prostate Cancer in Male BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation Carriers Has a More Aggressive Phenotype. British Journal of Cancer 2008;98:502–507. PMID: 18182994.

Originally published April 2009; last reviewed February 24, 2011.

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