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 prostate cancer can sometimes run in families.
In general, the chance of there being a family link is greater when:
- a number of family members have been diagnosed with prostate cancer
- the family members were diagnosed at a young age
- the family members are closely related.
You might be at increased risk if you have:
- one first-degree relative who developed prostate cancer at or under the age of 60 (first-degree relatives are your father, brothers, or sons)
- two or more close relatives on the same side of the family who developed prostate cancer (a close relative is a first-degree relative or a second-degree relative, such as a grandfather, grandson, uncle and nephew).
Inherited genes and prostate cancer
Experts think that less than 1 in 10 prostate cancers are linked to inherited genes. There isn’t one specific ‘prostate cancer gene’ that explains most of the cases of hereditary prostate cancer. Instead, it is thought that changes (alterations) in several genes may be involved. Each alteration only has a very small effect on a man’s risk.
But men who have inherited several of these genetic alterations may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Scientists are trying to develop a test that could identify men who are at a higher risk of this cancer. But a test isn’t available in the UK yet.
In a small number of men, prostate cancer is linked to alterations in the BRCA1 or, more often, the BRCA2 gene. These alterations are also linked to some breast and ovarian cancers. If you have a relative with prostate cancer and there is also a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer on the same side of the family, this may be due to an alteration in these genes.
However, most families with a strong history of prostate cancer don’t have alterations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
If you are worried that your family history may increase your risk of prostate cancer, talk to your GP. They may be able to reassure you or refer you to a clinical genetics service or a family cancer clinic.
We have more information about genetic testing.