Most prostate cancers aren’t caused by inherited cancer genes and most men who get prostate cancer don’t have a family history of it.
If you have just one relative who developed prostate cancer at an older age, your risk is unlikely to be very different from other men the same age as you. But sometimes prostate cancer can run in families.
In general, the more men in a family who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the younger they were when diagnosed, and the more closely related they are, the more likely it is there’s a family link.
Examples of a family history that may mean you are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer include having:
- One first-degree relative who developed prostate cancer at or under the age of 60. A first-degree relative is a father, brother or son.
- Two or more close relatives on the same side of the family who developed prostate cancer. A close relative is a father, brother, son, grandfather, uncle or nephew.
Experts think that 5-15% of prostate cancers are linked to inherited gene changes that increase the risk of developing it.
There isn’t one specific ‘prostate cancer gene’ that explains most of the cases of hereditary prostate cancer. Instead, it’s thought that variations in several genes may be involved. Each variation only has a very small effect on a man’s risk. But men who have inherited several of these genetic variations may have a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer.
Scientists are trying to develop a test that could identify men who are at higher risk. But a test isn’t available in the UK yet.
In a small number of men, prostate cancer is linked to the breast and ovarian cancer genes BRCA1 and, particularly, BRCA2. So, if you have a relative with prostate cancer and there is also a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer in the same side of the family, this may be due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
However, most families with a strong history of prostate cancer don’t have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
If a close relative has been diagnosed at a younger age, or more than one close relative has had prostate cancer, you may want to discuss this with your GP. They may be able to reassure you or refer you to a clinical genetics service or a family cancer clinic if needed.