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 "Prostate Cancer Risks"

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Prostate Cancer Risks

Most men with a family history of prostate cancer are well aware that they are at increased risk of developing the disease themselves, new research indicates.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. men, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer. Very little is known about what causes prostate cancer, but a family history of the disease has been shown to increase a man's risk. In fact, about 42 percent of all cases of prostate cancer are thought to be hereditary.

A team led by Dr. Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor set out to see whether relatives of men with prostate cancer were aware of their increased risk.

The study included 111 men who had a brother who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The men were interviewed by telephone to see how they perceived their risk of developing prostate cancer during the next 10 years and during their lifetime. Most brothers of men with prostate cancer accurately predicted that they were at increased risk of cancer, the team reports in the April 1 issue of the journal Cancer.

Beebe-Dimmer explained that about one out of every six men in the general population will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. "However, if a man has a brother, father or son diagnosed with prostate cancer, his chances of being diagnosed are approximately one in two," she said.

The majority of men in the study believed that they had at least a 50-50 chance of developing prostate cancer. Although most men were aware of their increased risk, younger brothers of men with cancer were more concerned than older brothers. This is a "particularly interesting" finding, according to the researchers, as the risk of prostate cancer increases with age.

Older brothers may be less concerned because they mistakenly believe that they have passed the time of their greatest risk of cancer, according to the report.

Another possible explanation, according to the researchers, is that older men may be less concerned because they assume that they will not die of prostate cancer. This may be true, as most men diagnosed with prostate cancer after age 70 end up dying of causes other than prostate cancer. The study also found that men with two or more close relatives were more concerned about their risk than men with a single affected relative.

The investigators discovered that men who were concerned about developing prostate cancer, particularly in the short term, were more likely than other men to use alternative medicine, such as supplements and vitamins, to try to reduce their risk. Supplements have not been proven to prevent prostate cancer and may interfere with some medications. But the findings show that men who are at high risk of developing prostate cancer are seeking ways to reduce their risk, according to the researchers. (source:Cancer, April 1, 2004)

Jim Shaw

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