Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, right after skin cancer. While genetic testing and counseling may be offered for women with family histories of breast and ovarian cancers, doctors have had little guidance on genetic screening for inherited prostate cancer, but that could be changing.
“Turns out that cancer came along and you just don’t let it get you down, you don’t let it beat you,” David ‘Doc’ Livingston explained to Ivanhoe.
Doc had both bladder and prostate cancer. His dad, uncle and brother all died from lymphatic and prostate cancer, leading him to DNA testing, out of concern for his own two sons. What Doc didn’t know was that women in his family could also be at risk. Researchers say inherited cancers cross genders.
“For example, BRCA2, the second breast cancer gene can lead to increased risk of prostate cancer in men and if a woman inherits a mutation in those genes, an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for women.” Veda N. Giri, MD, Director, Cancer Risk Assessment and Clinical Cancer Genetics; Associate Professor, Medical Oncology and Cancer Biology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University explained.
This insight into the underlying genetic cause of prostate cancer may ultimately shape the treatment, management and screening of patients.
“We expect that it’s actually going to inform even earlier stage disease for prostate cancer, as well,” said Doctor Giri.
When it comes to cancer detection, researchers say the earlier the better.
Doctor Giri continued, “So, for example, if a man is in a family that has a BRCA2 mutation, and he has inherited that mutation, whether it’s from his father or his mother, he would be recommended to start prostate cancer screening at a younger age.”
David says it’s potentially life-saving information that makes the testing process all worthwhile.
Livingston explained, “That’s nothing compared to what the suffering that so many people have with the different types of cancers that are out there.”
Men at average risk of prostate cancer should have a discussion with their doctors about screening starting at age 50. Men at higher- than- average risk, like those with family history, should have the discussion starting at age 40 or 45. Doctor Giri says David did not carry the BRCA gene but did show variants in genes, which are earlier indicators that mutations might be underway.