April 18, 2023

Is Prostate Cancer Hereditary?

prostate cancer father and son

Clinically reviewed by Gabrielle Hissong, MS, CGC, LGC

Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland—a walnut-shaped structure below the bladder. This cancer may stay in the prostate but can spread to other areas of the body. 

Any man can be diagnosed with the disease, but is prostate cancer inherited? 5-10% of prostate cancer can be due to an inherited genetic mutation. For people with a family history of prostate cancer, there are factors that can make us more suspicious for inherited component for prostate cancer. A family history of a relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age or multiple relatives with prostate cancer might indicate an inherited genetic mutation could be present in the family. 

Does that mean if you have a significant family history of prostate cancer, you will develop it? Not necessarily, but it does mean you should talk with your doctor about your risk.  

Understanding the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

This disease has other risk factors beyond a family history of prostate cancer. They include:

  • Age. Around 60% of prostate cancer cases are in men over 65. The diagnosis is rare in men under 40. The average age of diagnosis is about 66. 
  • Race/ethnicity. African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry have a higher prostate cancer risk than other races. They also tend to be affected at a younger age. The disease occurs less often in Asian American, Latino, and Hispanic men than non-Hispanic White men. There is no clear reason for these racial and ethnic differences.
  • Geography. North America, Australia, northwestern Europe, and Caribbean islands have the highest rate of prostate cancer.
  • Genetic mutations. Inherited genetic mutations can increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer, but these genetic mutations seem to account for a small percentage of overall prostate cancer cases. 

    Other possible risk factors are being studied (obesity, smoking, diet, etc.), but no clear links have been identified. 

The Link Between Family History and Prostate Cancer

Men whose families have been affected by the disease may wonder, “If my dad has prostate cancer, will I get it?” While there’s no definitive answer, researchers have learned in recent decades that genetics can play a role in prostate cancer risk. 

Familial risk of the disease varies based on whether a person who had it is a first-degree relative (father or brother), second-degree relative (uncle, half-brother, or grandfather), or third-degree relative (cousin or great-grandfather). People with a family history of the disease have a higher risk of developing. If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, your risk could be more than double that of someone without that history. Familial risk of disease is different from inherited risk. Familial risks include environmental factors (like diet) shared by families and unique genetic factors that that specific family might have.

Inherited risk of disease is cancer predisposition caused by genetic mutations. Mutations in genes that play a role in repairing cellular DNA may increase prostate cancer risk. Several genes may affect your risk for developing prostate cancer. For example, mutations to BRCA1 and BRCA2 (which also increases breast and ovarian cancer risk for women) can increase prostate cancer risk. These genes can be inherited from your mother or your father. 

Genetic testing for hereditary prostate cancer

A common question from people with a familial risk is, “My dad has prostate cancer. When should I get checked?” You should talk with your doctor when you learn about your family history of prostate cancer.

Your doctor can order a test that looks for inherited genetic mutations. They can also connect you with a genetic counselor who can work with you to develop an appropriate genetic testing and cancer screening strategy. This cancer screening can include earlier and more frequent digital rectal exams and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing. And if prostate cancer is suspected, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to look for cancerous cells. 

Are You at Risk for Hereditary Prostate Cancer?

Catching prostate cancer earlier can improve your treatment outcome. Consequently, it’s essential to understand how your family history affects your risk and share any information you have with your doctor. 

And if you have or think you might have prostate cancer, Baptist Health can help. Learn more about our urology services online.

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