Study identifies prostate cancer genetic marker

In collaboration with the Press Association

A genetic variant that may predispose men to prostate cancer has been discovered by a new study.

If the results are confirmed in larger studies, it would be a significant development in understanding the disease.

A fifth of all men of European ancestry with prostate cancer may carry a variant of the gene.

The research was carried out by company Decode genetics in association with academics in Iceland, Sweden and the US and is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

"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 Stefanson of Decode.

"This discovery is important from a medical standpoint because the only firmly established risk factors for the disease until now have been age, family history and ethnicity.

"We plan to use this discovery as the basis for the development of such a diagnostic test," he added.

A diagnostic test would be a major step forward in treatment, as it would give doctors some guide as to how closely they should monitor patients and how aggressively they may need to treat it.

"The findings of this study are very interesting but need to be replicated in other studies," said Dr Rosalind Eeles, a geneticist at the Institute of Cancer Research funded by Cancer Research UK.

"Scientists believe that a range of different genes cause prostate cancer, each gene raising a man's risk of the disease by a small amount. Tracking down these genes has proven very challenging."

"Cancer Research UK has just awarded funding for an even larger study to extend the search for genes that cause prostate cancer. These genes will give scientists new targets for treating the disease," she added.

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