Sure, we need more research about prostate cancer, but fortunately we also gain from research into other cancers. The commonly referred to breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 might also increase a man’s risk for developing an aggressive strain of prostate cancer.

According to a report in Reuters, men with prostate cancer who also carry one of these genes might also have a significantly increased risk for developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

The initial study appeared in Clinical Cancer Research. To see the abstract or full text of this article, at of this time, you will have to go to the original release from Yeshiva University.

We all know that one of the biggest problems men face when diagnosed is deciding whether to seek treatment, with all of its morbidity issues and expense, or just monitor the cancer’s progression (watchful waiting). Current technology does not allow us know which cancer will progress so slowly so it does not require treatment vs. which cancers will quickly progress and require treatment. If we were able to distinguish between tumors that will become aggressive from those will remain quiet we would be able to make better treatment choices. Screening men who are diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes mutations will help us make better treatment decisions by providing insight into who might develop advanced prostate cancer.

The study screened 979 men with prostate cancer and 1,251 men without prostate cancer for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations. These mutations have been shown to significantly raise the risk for breast and ovarian cancers in women. All the men involved in this study were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent so there needs to be follow-up studies drawing a true random sample from the general population. The study data showed that men with any one of three mutations in the two genes were no greater risk for prostate cancer than men with no mutation. However, men with one of the three mutations and who did have a
diagnosis of prostate cancer were much more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease.

According to, the incidence of BRCA1 mutation in the general population is between 1 in 500 and 1 in 800 and the incidence of BRCA2 mutation is even lower then these numbers. However, individuals with Ashkenazi Jewish background have an increased risk of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (approximately 1 in 40). At the minimal level, Ashkenazi Jews who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, should consider finding out if they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW