A common genetic marker that is found more frequently in men with prostate cancer than those without is reported in a study to be published in the June 2006 issue of Nature Genetics. This the first identification of a major genetic risk factor for prostate cancer in the general population.
Kari Stefansson and colleagues show that a particular marker on chromosome 8 is significantly more frequent in men with prostate cancer in populations studied in Iceland, Sweden, and the United States, including both European and African Americans. About 8% of prostate cancers in Europeans might be attributed to this variant. The genetic marker is significantly associated with high-grade prostate cancer in the four populations studied, and not with the benign precursor to prostate cancer, suggesting that it specifically increases the risk of malignant prostate tumors. The risk variant has not yet been definitively linked to a particular gene, although nearby regions on chromosome 8 harbor several candidates.
The incidence of prostate cancer is increasing and, after skin cancer, is now the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men. African Americans have a particularly high incidence, and are more likely to die from the disease than European Americans. The fact that the identified risk variant is four times more frequent in African Americans than European Americans suggests that it might explain at least a fraction of the elevated risk borne by Americans of African ancestry.
Kari Stefansson (deCODE Genetics, Reykjavik, Iceland)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Genetics press release.
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