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Gene Screen Might Predict Prostate Cancer

Such a test would be especially useful for blacks, other high-risk groups

MONDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors may someday be able to use five genetic markers to assess whether a man is at high risk to develop prostate cancer, a new study suggests.

If reliable, these five "single nucleotide polymorphisms" (SNPs) would be especially important for black patients, or men of any race with a family history of prostate cancer. These two groups have a twofold to sevenfold increased chance of developing the disease, experts note.

The research is scheduled to be presented Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual conference on cancer prevention in Washington, D.C.

"There have been years of effort to try to identify genes and genetic mutations associated with prostate cancer, as there are [such genes] for breast cancer," Dr. Veda N. Giri, director of the Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment Program (PRAP) at Fox Chase Cancer Center, in Philadelphia, explained in a news release issued by the conference organizers. "Prostate cancer is a more genetically complex disease."

The study included 700 men with either one first-degree relative with prostate cancer or two second-degree relatives with prostate cancer on the same side of the family. Giri and colleagues said they found similarities in these five genetic markers among high-risk white men and those already diagnosed with prostate cancer. The findings were even more profound among black men.

"When we compared African-American men in PRAP to the high-risk Caucasian men in PRAP, we did find a difference," she said. "African-American men tended to carry more of these genetic risk markers compared to the Caucasian men. Since African-American men carry more of these particular genetic markers, they may be more informative for prostate cancer risk assessment in African-American men."

The researchers also found a trend that black men who carried more of these risk markers tended to develop prostate cancer earlier, Giri said, however, the finding was not statistically significant.

"These markers may have significant use in personalizing the early detection of prostate cancer in men at high risk in order to provide tailored recommendations for screening and diagnosis of this disease," Giri said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about prostate cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Nov. 17, 2008

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