To Gauge Prostate Cancer Risk, Explore More Family Ties


When it comes to prostate cancer, it’s not enough for a clinician to ask whether a man’s parents or other first-degree relatives had the disease. Broadening the family history and inquiring about uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents can help identify patients at high risk for the disease – and can help determine who should have a blood test for screening.

The so-called PSA or prostate-specific antigen blood test for the disease is controversial because of the high rate of false positives. Prostate enlargement, which frequently occurs with age or an infection, can lead doctors to suspect cancer when it is not there, resulting in painful and unnecessary biopsies.

To find out who might benefit most from testing, researchers at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute obtained information on family prostate cancer history from 7.3 million people in the Utah Population Database. Then they developed individualized risk estimates for men based on their first-, second- and third-degree relatives’ experiences.

Based on the number of relatives who had the disease, researchers determined that 10 percent of the men had three times the risk of developing the disease and 26 percent had double the risk compared to those with no family history of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. Approximately 15 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which usually is found among those 50 and older, according to the institute and the National Cancer Institute.

Results of the study – funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation – were published in The Prostate journal.