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Wednesday, 4 August, 1999, 01:55 GMT 02:55 UK
Prostate cancer linked to mutant gene
Cancerous prostate
Prostate cancer is usually associated with elderly men
Scientists believe they have found that prostate cancer in men is strongly linked to a mutant gene implicated in a range of other cancers.

The BRCA2 gene has also been closely linked to the development of breast cancer in women.

People of both sexes who carry a faulty version of the gene are also thought to be at greater risk of cancers of the pancreas, gall bladder, mouth, throat, stomach and skin.

Researchers from the Cancer Research Campaign Genetic Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge have found that men who carry a damaged version of BRCA2 are up to five times more likely than average to suffer from prostate cancer.

The Cancer Research Campaign says consideration should now be give to screening men that carry the faulty BRCA2 gene regularly for early signs of prostate cancer.

Warning sign

A warning sign of the disease is the presence of a substance called PSA - prostate specific antigen - in the blood. Looking for PSA could form the basis of a screening test.

In the UK, at least half of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men aged 75 and over, but for faulty BRCA2 carriers the disease tends to occur earlier.

A carrier's chance of getting prostate cancer before 70 is one in nine, compared with one in 50 for the average man.

BRCA2 was identified by Professor Mike Stratton and a team of scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey, in 1995.

Mutated versions of the gene are believed to be responsible for up to a third of cases of breast cancer in families with a history of the disease.

Women who inherit the faulty gene have a 70% chance of getting breast cancer and a 20% chance of getting ovarian cancer by the time they reach 70 years of age.

Male breast cancer is rare, with around 200 cases each year, compared with 33,000 women, but scientists believe that about 10% of these may be linked to BRCA2 mutations.

See also:

01 Aug 99 | Health
Protein brakes prostate cancer
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