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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 16:08 GMT
Breast cancer gene raises prostate risk
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer affects 22,000 men a year in the UK
A genetic mutation which can cause breast and ovarian cancer significantly increases men's risk of developing prostate cancer, researchers say.

Men have a five-fold increased risk of developing the cancer if they have the BRAC2 gene.

Cancer Research UK scientists have announced there will be a Europe-wide study to target screening at men who have a high genetic risk.

The five-year Impact study will involve 500 men with the faulty gene who have four or more close relatives who have developed breast cancer before the age of 60.


The crucial thing about screening for prostate cancer is to identify those men with a high risk of an aggressive form of the disease

Dr Ros Eeles, Institute of Cancer Research
They will use a test to detect Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), a chemical produced in higher than normal quantities by a diseased prostate.

Men with increased PSA levels will be offered biopsies to determine whether they need further treatment.

They will be compared with men without the faulty gene taking part in a PSA trial in the Netherlands.

Some of the 40% of early onset, aggressive prostate cancers which are linked to inherited factors could be due to alterations in this gene.

Increased understanding

Prostate cancer is now the most common form of the disease in men in the UK, with 22,000 cases diagnosed each year.

The scientists say genetic screening could mean cases could be detected and diagnosed earlier.

Testing for prostate cancer is traditionally difficult as it is very common, but can grow slowly and without any symptoms.

At Cancer Research UK's first annual conference in Warwickshire Dr Ros Eeles of the Institute of Cancer Research said: "The crucial thing about screening for prostate cancer is to identify those men with a high risk of an aggressive form of the disease.

"As scientists' understanding of cancer genetics improves, pressure on screening programmes will increase dramatically and it will not be possible to screen every man we need a more targeted approach."

She said there should be a National Carrier Clinic Network, to track everyone in the country who was at a higher genetic risk of developing cancer.

And she said there would have to be additional resources to allow the full potential of the new screening procedures to be reached.

Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: "With our advancing knowledge of cancer genetics comes a responsibility to inform the public so they have realistic expectations of what can be achieved.

"This is vitally important if we are to prevent screening services being overwhelmed."

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