New Insight Into the Impact of Genetic Mutations
- BRCA gene mutations are already known to increase women’s risk of breast cancer. These gene mutations are also associated with increased risk for ovarian cancer, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer.
- New research finds that they also significantly increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Men with the BRCA2 mutation have double the risk of other men their age in the general population of developing prostate cancer.
- Additionally, the study found that the BRCA2 gene mutation was linked to other increases in men’s cancer risk. Men with the mutation were found to be at triple the risk of developing stomach and pancreatic cancer, and 44 times the risk of developing breast cancer.
Since then, the BRCA gene mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2) have become widely known to the public for increasing women’s risk of breast cancer. These gene mutations are also associated with increased risk for ovarian cancer, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer.Read More
A change in urinary habits could be an indicator of prostate cancer, but it could also be due to a handful of other issues.
Approximately one in 300 men have this gene mutation. The study that led to these findings observed more than 5,000 families around the world with at least one person with a BRCA mutation. The data the study collected found that within the more than 2,000 families with the BRCA2 mutation, men with this gene mutation were about 2.2 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than their peers in the broader population.
When asked about the practical impact of this study’s findings, author Dr. Marc Tischkowitz said, “These findings could help men who have a BRCA2 fault be more aware of their risk of prostate cancer and monitor their symptoms more closely. That could mean any cases being picked up more quickly.”
On top of that, this study could lead to more concrete action steps and changes in prostate cancer screening conventions. “There is also an argument that this evidence means men with the BRCA2 gene should be offered routine prostate screening to detect early signs of cancer developing,” said Dr. Tischkowitz.
When it comes to prostate cancer, African-American men tend to have higher incidences and more aggressive cancers than Caucasian men.
The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test screens for prostate cancer.
It’s a simple blood test that’s used to screen for prostate cancer and also to track a patient’s response to treatment. PSA is the name of a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Men have a small amount of PSA in their blood all the time but large amounts may signal that something is brewing. When cancer cells grow, PSA spills into the blood.
An elevated PSA test does not always mean you have prostate cancer. It can simply reflect that your prostate is enlarged–which is quite common–or it could signal an infection or inflammation. In fact, that’s one of the controversial aspects of the PSA test–high levels may lead to over-treatment in men who are more likely to die from something else.
The study also found that the BRCA2 gene mutation was linked to other increases in men’s cancer risk. Men with the mutation were found to be at triple the risk of developing stomach and pancreatic cancer, and 44 times the risk of developing breast cancer.
What is BRCA2?
BRCA2 is one of two mutations of the BRCA gene: BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genetic mutations have been linked to an increased risk of multiple types of cancer, but they are best known for increasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women. It is estimated that about 72% of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and about 69% of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. Roughly 44% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and about 17% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by the age of 80.
As this study reminds us, is crucial to keep in mind that gene mutations aren’t exclusive to women. They can increase the risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer in men, and breast and pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer in both men and women.
Why Does a BRCA Mutation Increase Cancer Risk?
In a previous interview, Dr. Rebecca Arend, associate scientist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, explained how these mutations affect risk: “What a BRCA mutation is, is a defect in your ability to repair a double-strand break (in your DNA).” This means that cells have a tougher time repairing their DNA as they are supposed to. When cells repair their DNA the wrong way, when cancer, such as breast and pancreatic cancer, is more likely to develop.
Who Can Have a BRCA Mutation?
The BRCA mutations (which are passed on from a father or a mother), can cause a variety of cancers. If one of your first degree relatives carries a BRCA gene mutation, there is a 50-50 chance you’re carrying it, too. And because BRCA mutations aren’t tied to the X or Y sex chromosome, that blood relative does not need to be a woman. You’re just as likely to inherit the risks of cancers associated with BRCA from your father as you are from your mother.