In the world of women’s health, word about new tests and treatments gets out quickly. Countless women know about two gene mutations, BRCA1 and BRCA2, because of actress Angelina Jolie’s choice to have both breasts removed. When these two genes function normally, they help to make sure cells don’t proliferate out of control. However, certain mutations can dramatically raise breast cancer risk. In Ms. Jolie’s case, she tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation. After her surgery and breast reconstruction, she told the press that her cancer risk went from 87% to 5%.
In the world of men’s health, news about personal wellness concerns tends to spread more slowly. Sometimes, it seems it creeps along at a snail’s pace. I thought I would do my share to help get the word out about how those two genetic mutations actually increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
While the exact cellular and molecular mechanisms are not yet completely understood, research shows that men who carry either mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2, or both, are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer—as much as 8% increase—than men who don’t. More importantly, if they develop the disease, it is likely to be dangerously aggressive and potentially deadly. Men whose female family members have had breast cancer should consider being tested to learn if they carry either mutation.
What if the test proves positive? There is no established guideline regarding further screening or monitoring. However, many international oncologists, urologists and general practitioners recognize the value of multiparametric MRI in addition to routine tests such as PSA and DRE. Two currently running international clinical trials (one in Canada, the other in Israel) are designed to explore the value of more intensive screening, including multiparametric MRI of the prostate, for men who carry the mutations but have no symptoms of prostate cancer. The idea is to catch it early when an aggressive treatment is most likely to succeed.
Our Center is ideally set up to aid in multiparametric MRI as a screening adjunct to genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2. If you have a family history of either prostate or breast cancer, I encourage you to speak with your doctor about testing for these genetic mutations. It could be a lifesaver.