Categorized | Feature

Prostate Cancer and Genetics

Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men, the pathophysiology of this disease remains poorly understood. No definite behavioral or environmental risk factors have been identified, but genetics are an important and likely the strongest contributing factor to the development and progression of the disease. Indeed it has been shown that first degree relatives of affected men are at over two-fold higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

In contrast to other types of cancer, it’s still unclear which individual genes dictate prostate cancer. There are only a few genes with known mutations that cause prostate cancer, and furthermore these mutations explain less than 10% of the risk. Given this, it’s likely that variations in the lower penetrance loci may contribute to disease susceptibility. Multiple case-control genome wide association studies have identified numerous single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with prostate cancer risk. Nevertheless, the problem still lies in how to interpret their combined and individual contributions to disease risk.

Recent studies have examined these potential indicators and have discovered more than 30 loci that may contribute to prostate cancer. However, due to the large number of possible loci, it’s necessary to perform more analyses in a large population of cases and controls testing all of the genetic variants. Hopefully these future studies will reveal a more complete understanding of the individual and cumulative risks associated with these loci.

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November 2012
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