Cancer is a growing concern in today’s society. As we have already seen in previous posts on this blog, the number of diagnosed cases of cancer is increasing year after year and an increase of 50% in these new diagnoses is estimated in the next 20 years. Among all the different types of cancer, prostate cancer is the most diagnosed in men (more than 30,000 cases were diagnosed in Spain in 2021). Prostate cancer in men has a strong hereditary component. To address this concern, preventive genetic studies have become a fundamental tool in the fight against hereditary cancer in general, especially in the case of prostate cancer..
What is hereditary cancer?
Hereditary cancer refers to the genetic predisposition to develop cancer due to mutations, which we call pathogenic genetic variants, in certain genes. Such variants can be passed from generation to generation, meaning that if one family member has a genetic variant linked to some type of hereditary cancer, other family members may also be at risk. What is even less known is the fact that a variant in a specific gene can increase your risk not only to the same type of cancer as the specific family member who has already had the disease, but to other types. Thus, there are certain genetic variants that can influence susceptibility to multiple types of cancer in the same family. A classic example of this is the variants in the BRCA2 gene, which can be related to both breast cancer and prostate cancer, among other types of cancer.
BRCA genes and their role in hereditary cancer
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, key in the DNA repair mechanisms of our cells, are two of the most studied genes in relation to hereditary cancer. In fact, the name of the gene is an acronym for Breast Cancer. Carriers of variants in these genes have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer in the case of BRCA1, and breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer in the case of BRCA2. This means that a variant in the BRCA2 gene can affect multiple types of cancer in the same family. Let’s take the example of a family in which a woman has a pathogenic genetic variant in the BRCA2 gene. This variant gives this woman a 69% risk of developing breast cancer throughout her life. In this way the risk is multiplied almost by 6 since the population risk in Spain of developing breast cancer throughout life is 12%. Beyond this specific risk in this woman, plus the risk she will have of ovarian cancer, which will be 17%, there will be the possibility that other family members, women and men, have also inherited the same genetic variant. Men who have inherited it will have up to a 60% risk of developing prostate cancer throughout their lives, which represents a risk 5 times higher than the population risk of 12%.
Benefits of genetic study
1. Early risk identification
One of the greatest benefits of undergoing a preventive medicine genetic study is the ability to early identify the risk of developing different types of hereditary cancer, including prostate cancer. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment and, in some cases, can even lead to a reduction and minimization of the risk of developing the disease.
2. Access to personalized preventive medicine
Thanks to the information that a genetic study can provide, medical care and monitoring can be tailored
to the specific needs of each individual. This may include regular examinations, changes in diet or healthier lifestyles, and in some cases even consideration of preventive medical interventions in order to reduce or minimize the risk of developing the disease.
3. Informed decision making
A prevention genetic study provides people and their families with the information necessary
to make informed decisions about their health. This may include decisions about prevention, screening, and treatment options.
4. Reduction of emotional impact
Knowing that you are at risk can be emotionally challenging, but it also provides the opportunity
to take proactive steps to reduce that risk. Genetic information can help people cope in a less stressful way.
5. Protect future generations
Genetic information is also valuable for future generations. If genetic mutations are identified in a family, this can help protect future generations by giving them the opportunity for testing and preventive measures at an early age when they have the ability to understand the consequences of a genetic study.
In summary, preventive medicine genetic studies are an essential tool in the fight against hereditary cancer, including prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate, breast, or ovarian cancer and are concerned about your health, consider undergoing genetic prevention testing and take a step toward a healthier, safer future.
Make an appointment with our specialists. The 1st visit is completely free and will help the doctor know your personal and family history and assess which test is most appropriate for you.