A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that genetic variants located in five different chromosomal regions have been associated with prostate cancer.

The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system, which is responsible for producing some of the fluid that transports the sperm during ejaculation.

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men. Factors that influence the risk of prostate cancer include age, race, and family history. Prostate cancer is more common among older men, African-American men, and men with a family history of prostate cancer.

Some of these differences in risk may be explained by inherited genetic variation.

Looked at individually, specific genetic variants have tended to show only moderate associations with prostate cancer. It’s possible, however, that when looked at in combination, a stronger link will emerge.

To explore the relationship between a combination of genetic variants and risk of prostate cancer, researchers in Sweden conducted a study among 2,893 men with prostate cancer and 1,781 men without prostate cancer.

The final analysis focused on five genetic variants (a single genetic variant at each of five chromosomal regions), as well as family history of prostate cancer.

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  • Men with a greater number of genetic variants had a higher risk of prostate cancer.
  • Men in the highest risk group (those with either five genetic variants with or without a family history or four genetic variants with a family history) were more than nine times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with no genetic variants and no family history.
  • Together the five genetic variants and family history were thought to account for 46% of the prostate cancer cases in this population.

The researchers conclude that genetic variants at five chromosomal locations, plus family history, appear to be strongly linked with risk of prostate cancer.

The specific mechanism by which the genetic variants affect the risk of prostate cancer has not been identified, and future research will be needed to test the value of these findings in determining the risk of prostate cancer in individual men.

Reference: Zheng SL, Sun J, Wiklund F et al. Cumulative association of five genetic variants with prostate cancer. New England Journal of Medicine [early online publication]. January 16, 2008.

Related News:Genetic Marker Linked to Increased Prostate Cancer Risk (05/09/2006)

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