Genetic testing reveals new information for prostate cancer

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Genetic testing is revealing critical information in prostate cancer, which is the second most common cancer in American men.     

While genetic testing and counseling may be offered for women with family histories of breast and ovarian cancers, doctors have had little guidance on genetic screening for inherited prostate cancer, but that could be changing. 

David Livingston had both bladder and prostate cancer. His dad, uncle and brother all died from lymphatic and prostate cancer; leading him to DNA testing, out of concern for his own two sons. What Livingston didn’t know was that women in his family could also be at risk. Researchers say inherited cancers cross genders.

Livingston says, “Turns out that cancer came along and you just don’t let it get you down, you don’t let it beat you.” 

Dr. Veda Giri, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson explains, “For example, brca2, the second breast cancer gene can lead to increased risk of prostate cancer in men and if a woman inherits a mutation in those genes, an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for women.” 

This insight into the underlying genetic cause of prostate cancer may ultimately shape the treatment, management and screening of patients. 

Dr. Giri says, “We expect that it’s actually going to inform even earlier stage disease for prostate cancer, as well.” 

When it comes to cancer detection, researchers say the earlier the better.

Dr. Giri continues, “So, for example, if a man is in a family that has a brca2 mutation, and he has inherited that mutation, whether it’s from his father or his mother, he would be recommended to start prostate cancer screening at a younger age.” 

Livingston says it’s potentially life-saving information that makes the testing process all worthwhile.

Livingston adds, “That’s nothing compared to what the suffering that so many people have with the different types of cancers that are out there.” 

Dr. Giri says Livingston did not carry the brca gene, but did show variants in genes, which are earlier indicators that mutations might be underway.

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