A faulty gene that increases the risk of breast cancer has also been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
The faulty BRCA1 gene increases the risk of developing breast cancer by five-fold. Whilst healthy women have a one in eight chance of developing the disease, women with the BRCA1 gene have a six in ten chance of breast cancer.
And now, a large study published in the British Journal of Cancer has shown that men with the faulty BRCA1 gene have a one in 11 chance of developing a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer by the age of 65.
In the study, conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, 913 men underwent genetic screening.
Four men were found to have alternations in BRCA1, and three out of these four men were diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65.
This large study has shown that men with this alteration have a 3.8 fold increased risk of developing the disease.
Now, experts are urging that men with a strong family history of either breast cancer or prostate cancer to be offered genetic tests to discover if they are carrying BRCA1, so their health can be monitored from an early age.
As well as detecting BRCA1 in men with a family history of cancer, genetic screening of men with the disease could also improve treatment. There are drugs that can target specific defects in the BRCA1 mutation, opening up the possibility of targeted medicine.
Emma Malcolm, chief executive of the charity Prostate Action, which co-funded the study, said:
"We’ve long known about the link between breast cancer and prostate cancer and this research confirms the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer from the inherited faulty BRCA1 gene.
"Once gene testing becomes faster and cheaper we may be able to identify those men at a higher risk of prostate cancer and monitor them from an early age."
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