Prostate cancer risk linked to breast, ovarian cancer gene mutation

A male patient’s risk of prostate cancer may have connections to a gene mutation associated with breast and ovarian risk in women, according to a trio of studies presented by the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

In one study co-authored by Srinivas Vourganti, MD, of the SUNY Upstate Medical Center, men who had been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer were found to be four times likely than the general population to have metastatic disease or T3/T4 cancer if the BRCA2 mutation was present.

“They are very much at high risk of cancer and we should be tailoring their screening, to be more aggressive in screening versus less aggressive," Vourganti said to HealthDay.

The second study reviewed nearly 5,800 male breast cancer patients. It found with a median follow-up of about four years, 250 of those men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, making male breast cancer patients 30 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer later on.

The third study involved blood DNA samples of prostate cancer patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and found African-American men were more likely to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation than white men (7 percent versus 2 percent), and their cancer was more likely to spread.  

Taken together, the studies call into question previously accepted studies which found BRCA mutations factored into only around 5 percent of prostate cancer cases.

“Though the relationship between mutations on the BRCA genes and breast cancer are well established, we are only just beginning to truly understand how these genes could impact a man’s risk of prostate cancer and aggressive disease,” Brian Helfand, MD, PhD, urologic oncologist at NorthShore University Health System in Chicago said in a statement ahead of moderating a panel discussion on the research. “These studies give insight into some important ways we can use this information to develop new methods of identifying and treating men with potentially lethal prostate cancer.”

Vourganti went a step further, saying the data would suggest prostate cancer patients with a BRCA mutation may respond to treatments that have proven effective on breast cancers linked to BRCA.

“In this era of personalized medicine, there's promise for men who present with BRCA2,” he said to HealthDay. "We're learning that prostate cancer is not one disease. Rather, it is many different diseases that need to be treated on a personalized and individual basis.”