Scientists Identify Genetic Variant That Ups Risk of Prostate Cancer

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Scientists have identified a genetic variant that puts one man in 10 at higher risk of prostate cancer, marking a breakthrough in diagnosing the most common cancer to affect men.

The variant is about twice as common in African Americans as whites, which may partially account for the higher incidence of prostate cancer in blacks, according to the researchers.

The genetic variant may be a factor in about 8 per cent of prostate cancers in white men and 16 per cent of the cancers in blacks, the researchers said.

This is the first identification of a major genetic risk factor for prostate cancer in the general population. The breakthrough was announced in the journal Nature Genetics by a team at Decode genetics, a biopharmaceutical company, with academic researchers in Iceland, the U.S. and Sweden.

“This is one of the first genetic variants ever found to confer significant risk of a major cancer among the population in general,” said Dr Kari Stefansson, chief executive of Decode genetics.

A diagnostic test for the variant may help doctors make more informed decisions as to how closely to monitor those at high risk, and how aggressively to treat the disease.

Source: Medical Week staff, week of May 10, 2006

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