Frequently Asked Questions: Is Prostate Cancer Hereditary?

Cancer experts are often asked “Is prostate cancer hereditary?” and research into the disease shows that there might be a genetic link. The link between heredity and prostate cancer was first suspected as far back as the 1950’s, but the connection did not become clear until the 1970’s. Since that time, dozens of studies conducted indicate a strong link between genetics and prostate cancer.

Immediate Family

Although researchers agree that having a relative with prostate cancer increases the risk of developing the disease, experts do not agree on just how much of a risk in answer to the question “Is prostate cancer hereditary?” What experts do agree on is, the closer the relationship of the diagnosed family member, the greater the impact.

For example, a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer increases a man’s risk of developing the disease by as much as 15 percent. The risk increases to 25 percent if the relative was diagnosed before age 60. Although grandfathers, uncles and cousins diagnosed with prostate cancer have a smaller impact on a man’s risk of prostate cancer, the more relatives diagnosed, the greater the risk. A man with three or more relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer has a 35 to 45 percent chance of contracting the disease in his lifetime.

Environmental Factors

Research is still being conducted to answer the question, “Is prostate cancer hereditary?” One factor being considered is environmental factors because families share more than genes. Exposure to similar environmental factors could be another cause for the increased risk of prostate diagnosis when other family members are diagnosed. However, studies show heredity has a greater impact on the risk of developing prostate, breast and colorectal cancers than environmental factors . One study indicated that 42 percent of the risk factors depended on heredity.

Prostate Gene

Scientists have isolated two genes that have been linked to prostate cancers in men. The hereditary prostate cancer 1(HPC1) gene, located on chromosome one, is responsible for approximately 3 percent of prostate cancers, while hereditary prostate cancer 2 (HPC2) accounts for four to five percent of these types of cancers. When answering the question “Is prostate cancer hereditary?” no single genetic abnormality accounts for the majority of cases, as these two genes only account for approximately seven to eight percent of those diagnosed.

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