According to a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers have identified a genetic variant that appears to increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system. It produces some of the fluid that transports sperm during ejaculation. In the U.S. population, one in six men will develop prostate cancer over the course of his lifetime. Prostate cancer occurs more frequently in older men, in African-American men, and in men with a family history of prostate cancer.
One of the goals of genetic research is to identify genetic alterations that are linked with an increased risk of disease. If specific genetic variants prove to be linked with cancer, it may be possible to test for these variants to identify individuals at high risk of cancer. These patients may benefit from earlier or more frequent screening for cancer.
Researchers in Iceland have identified a genetic variant on chromosome 8 that appears to be linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer. The researchers evaluated the frequency of this genetic variant among men in Iceland, Sweden, and the U.S. The study enrolled more than 3000 men with prostate cancer and more than 2000 men without prostate cancer.
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- Among men of European ancestry, the genetic variant was identified in 19% of men with prostate cancer and 13% of men without prostate cancer.
- Among African-American men, the genetic variant was identified in 41% of the men with prostate cancer and 30% of the men without prostate cancer.
- The genetic variant may account for 8% of prostate cancers in men of European descent, and 16% of prostate cancers in African-American men.
The researchers conclude that the higher frequency of this genetic variant in African-American men may partially explain the higher risk of prostate cancer among African-Americans. Tests for this genetic variant could help identify men who would benefit from earlier or more frequent prostate cancer screening.
Reference: Amundadottir LT, Sulem P, Gudmundsson J et al. A Common Variant Associated with Prostate Cancer in European and African Populations. Nature Genetics. Early Online Publication May 7, 2006.
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