History Lesson: Men Need to Know If Grandpa Had Prostate Cancer

A DNA molecule fragment (Wikimedia Commons).

When prostate cancer is diagnosed early, prostate cancer is highly treatable. But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Its reputation as a silent killer stems from the limited warning signs. Because of that, men must work closely with their healthcare providers to identify all possible red flags.

It is important for men to know where they stand with prostate cancer. If your father or brother has prostate cancer, particularly if you also meet other risk criteria, make an appointment with a prostate cancer specialist. For high-risk men, that relationship should start long before diagnosis.

A new study is showing the increasing importance of understand and having a complete family history of prostate cancer and the correlation to gauging personal risk with greater accuracy.

Much research over the past few decades, has shown having a first, second or third-degree relative with prostate cancer raises a Caucasian man’s risks of the disease. For Caucasian males, a complete family history of prostate cancer among close and distant relatives may gauge personal risk with greater accuracy.

If an extensive family history exists and men are aware, it provides a wider range to estimate individual risks that are potentially more accurate than those based on typical family health histories. Both maternal and paternal history are equally important.

Researchers analyzed the records of more than 635,000 men within a Utah population database, 18,105 had prostate cancers. They found a correlation between family relationship and age when prostate cancer is detected.

The key is having a complete map of affected relatives. This will push patients and give a leg up to specialists towards making more informed screening, monitoring and treatment decisions.

Not surprisingly, researchers also found that have a first-degree relative such as a father or brother with prostate cancer increased the risk from 2.5 to 7.7 times more likely to develop the disease.  Risks were also higher when a family member was diagnosed before age 50. Therefore if you have a close relative who had prostate cancer at a young age, you may be at risk for the same.

Family history in combination with genetic data provides more information about disease risk than genetic data alone, the researchers noted.

Individualized care has always been the correct approach to diagnosing prostate cancer, but having a man’s specific family history may prove to be inexpensive and efficient addition to identifying males at the highest risk for this disease, which The American Cancer Society predicts will strike more than 230,000 men this year.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for AM-970 in New York City. 

History Lesson: Men Need to Know If Grandpa Had Prostate Cancer