Knowing Medical Histories of Uncles, Great-Grandfathers Helps Determine Prostate Cancer Risk

A study led by Utah Genome Project investigator Lisa Cannon-Albright, PhD, shows that looking at whether a man’s uncles and great-grandparents, among other second- and third-degree relatives, had prostate cancer could be as important as looking at whether his father had prostate cancer. A more complete family history would give physicians a new tool to decide whether or not a PSA test was appropriate. The findings were published in the journal, The Prostate.

“Family history is a substantial risk factor for prostate cancer,” said Cannon-Albright, also a U of U professor of genetic epidemiology and an HCI investigator. “But typically, a clinician will ask a patient whether there are any people in the family with prostate cancer, possibly identifying whether they are first-degree relatives. And that’s about as far as it goes.”

Cannon-Albright’s team used data from the Utah Population Database, which correlates genealogic and medical information for more than 7.3 million individuals, to create individualized risk estimates for men based on prostate cancer history in their first-, second-, and third-degree relatives.

“The clinical application of our findings is especially relevant because there is no consensus on prostate cancer screening,” said co-author Robert A. Stephenson, MD, professor of urologic oncology at the U of U and an HCI investigator. “Knowing prostate cancer risk estimates associated with a man’s detailed family history can help pinpoint the men who will benefit from targeted screening.”

The team is currently working on similar family history risk assessments for breast and lung cancers.

Read more about the research.

Following The Family Tree To Assess Risk For Cancer