Genetic Predisposition to Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, a walnut-sized organ forming part of the male reproductive system and found next to the bladder. It plays a role in the production and secretion of one of the constituents of semen. Prostate cancer has been shown to have genetic links (remember that genes control cell functions and that cancers are caused by an uncontrolled division of cells). Certain genes may be already encoded in the DNA of some individuals which could later on cause prostate cancer.
As men age, they have an increased risk of inflammation of the prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This can in some instances, lead to cancer. The enlargement of the prostrate can lead to problems in micturition, often men suffering from this will feel the need to urinate very often or stain whilst urinating.
In males in the developed world, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer. Once can assume that this trait is also manifested in underdeveloped countries but statistics for these are hard to come by. Cancer can be detected by using a blood test. The test seeks to confirm the presence of PSA or prostate specific antigen. A physical examination may also be carried out in which the doctor will insert a finger up the rectum to check for an inflamed prostate. This procedure is known as digital rectal examination or DRE. More information about prostate cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute who have an entire section of their website with useful contacts and information about Prostate Cancer.
The genetic links to prostate cancer
Cancer of the prostate results in the production of prostate specific antigens; elevated levels would confirm cancer. Whilst prostate cancer can be hereditary some cases can be due to random mutations occurring in an individual’s life, even if they are born without the gene mutation. About 75% of all prostate cancers are in fact not due to any hereditary genetics and these 75% of individuals are not born with the cancer-causing mutation. Around 20% of cancers of the prostate gland are due to combinations or genetics and the environment and diet. The last remaining 5% account for strictly hereditary cancers.
Is it possible to know whether or not I have inherited the prostate cancer gene?
DNA testing can tell you whether you carry the gene which causes prostate cancer and the extent to which this puts you at risk of the disease. The test is sometimes called a prostate cancer genetic predisposition test. If you have a history of prostate cancer in the family, then a DNA test might be sensible. This might help put your mind at rest by telling you whether or not you have the gene or are at an elevated risk.
Some genes which are known to cause breast cancer, like BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 can also be the cause of prostate cancer. These genes normally help to suppress and stop tumors forming but certain mutations of these genes actually have the opposite effect and stop these genes carrying out their designated function. Men with the BRCA2 gene mutation are particularly more likely to develop tumors when compared to other males. The rate of growth of the cancer is also hard to predict but studies seem to indicate that the BRCA2 gene is more likely to cause a rapid growth and perhaps metastasis of the tumor.
What causes prostate cancer?
Like all cancers, an uncontrolled proliferation of cells is the cause. Why this uncontrolled cell division happens is not yet understood. What we do know is that there is a genetic link to prostate cancer and that prostate cancer is hereditary. Males who have a first degree blood relative who has suffered from prostate cancer also have a chance of developing the condition themselves; a chance which is higher that the individual without any affected first degree relatives.
As genetic studies continue, it is likely that more effective treatments will be found. Studying family history of genetic disorders, twins studies and genetic testing will all help improve ways of dealing and treating all types of cancers, not only that of the prostate.
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