Prostate Cancer

Is prostate cancer genetic?

Prostate cancer is unfortunately a relatively common disease, with 1 in 9 men diagnosed in their lifetime. Most of the time, cancer is caused by chance. Sometimes multiple factors play a role. In some families, cancer is caused by a single genetic factor that puts a man at a higher risk. called a hereditary predisposition.

“What does my prostate cancer diagnosis mean for my family members and their chance to develop cancer?”

Even though prostate cancer is quite common amongst men, most of these cancers are not considered to be hereditary. For those families that are found to have a hereditary cause, genetic testing allows for family members to be tested to see if they have a higher risk to develop cancer. No gene confers a guarantee that someone will go on to develop cancer. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer are still at an increased risk to develop this type of cancer even without an identified gene. Those family members that are at a higher risk of cancer can develop a personalized screening and cancer prevention plan with their doctors to help keep them healthy.

“Does my doctor need to know if my prostate cancer is genetic?”

We know that prostate cancer that is hereditary behaves differently than sporadic prostate cancer. If a man is found to carry a gene that strongly contributed his cancer, his doctors may discuss additional treatment options available to him to treat or stabilize the disease. This may be particularly important in men who have metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that has spread outside of the prostate to the bone or other organs).

“Do only my sons need to worry about hereditary prostate cancer?”

While sisters and daughters would not be at an increased risk for prostate cancer, many of the genes that cause prostate cancer in men (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2) are linked to higher risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in women. By testing for these genes, women can better protect themselves from these cancers.

How can I learn more?”

Speaking with a genetic counselor is a great way to learn about hereditary prostate cancer. Genetic counseling involves a discussion about your cancer history and your family health history to assess the likelihood that there is a strongly hereditary contributor to cancer. A genetic counselor can also coordinate genetic testing for genes linked to hereditary prostate cancer. Whether you decide to have genetic testing or not, a genetic counselor can always help to counsel you and your family members about their chance to develop cancer…. and most importantly what they can do about it.

Click here to learn more about scheduling a genetic counseling appointment for questions about hereditary cancer predisposition.

Additional Resources

*Positive Results Facebook Group
Genetic Support Foundation hosts a Facebook group for Hereditary Cancer Support and Resources. Get trusted information and join a community of support.
*Cascade Screening Connector
Genetic Support Foundation has partnered with the Washington State Department of Health to provide cascade screening to help people identify and contact family members who may have an increased chance of developing cancer. 
*FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) 
The FORCE mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families facing hereditary cancer. Resources include peer navigation and expert-reviewed information. 
*AliveAndKicknAliveAndKickn is a nonprofit working to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by Lynch Syndrome and associated cancers through research, education, and screening. 
*Health Experiences USAThis national research project brings patient voices into the healthcare experience and features video clips of people facing hereditary cancer. Individuals from a variety of backgrounds share both positive and negative experiences about living with hereditary cancer. 


Last updated on Dec 31st, 2020

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