Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer in men. About 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and the risks are higher in older men and Blacks. Currently, doctors can tell one’s risk of prostate cancer measuring the level of a substance released by the prostate: the prostate surface antigen (PSA). However, a team of researchers have identified a potentially more effective way of accessing risk of prostate cancer.
Using DNA from saliva samples of 307 men, the researchers studied more than 130 genetic changes that can influence one’s risk of developing prostate cancer. They combined the effects of these genetic mutations to assign each man a risk score, which correlates with their overall risk of the disease. It turned out men with a higher risk score were truly more likely to develop prostate cancer – of the 18 men in the top 10 percent of risk, seven of them were diagnosed with prostate cancer in follow-up investigations.
The researchers say genetic screening had the advantage of early detection of prostate cancer risk and the capacity to detect cancers more efficiently than PSA testing, which has been marred with high rates of over-diagnosis. The reason is simple, high PSA levels may be caused by prostate infection or enlargement in the absence of prostate cancer. On the other hand, a genetic test may be more likely to give a more precise assessment of one’s overall risk. Fingers are crossed on whether genetic testing for prostate cancer will live up to this expectation and one day become a routine test for men.