Researchers discover new genetic risk predictors for prostate cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Newly discovered genetic markers could be used to identify men with a higher risk of prostate cancer, international research has shown. 

“This important research continues a quest to unravel the complex picture of the genetic factors that increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer" - Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK

The discovery of 23 new genetic variants that are more common among men with prostate cancer, published in the journal in Nature Genetics, brings the total number of such variants to 100.

The study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, could lead to new methods of clinical testing that would help screen men for their predisposition towards the disease. 

Cancer genetics expert Professor Ros Eeles, from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said that the study can help read the "genetic hand" men are dealt when it comes to the illness by pinpointing a number of common genetic variants that could have a very important collective effect.

“To use the playing cards analogy again, sometimes multiple low cards can combine to form a high ‘risk’ score,” she added.

The study looked at DNA from nearly 90,000 men, drawing from populations in Europe, Japan, Africa and Latino areas. Just over 43,000 were prostate cancer patients, the rest were men without the disease but similar in many other respects such as age.

Sixteen new genetic markers linked to prostate cancer in European men were discovered, and seven in men of mixed heritage. One of the markers was linked to early onset of the disease.

Cancer Research UK's professor Malcolm Mason said that the research continues to clarify the complicated picture of genetic factors that can increase the risk of a man developing prostate cancer. 

“Building on previous research this study gives a more complete list of these factors, bringing us closer to knowing who may need screening for prostate cancer and which men may benefit from early treatment. More work needs to be done, but identifying these genetic factors will allow us to better understand the disease and maybe even develop new treatments,” he added.

The study was funded by the EU, Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer UK and the National Institutes for Health in the US.


  • Al Olama, A, et al. (2014). A meta-analysis of 87,040 individuals identifies 23 new susceptibility loci for prostate cancer Nature Genetics DOI: 10.1038/ng.3094