Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today, particularly prostate and breast cancer. New research shows that there is actually a genetic link between the two. 

CBS news reports on the new research.

The study shows that a family history of prostate cancer is probably connected to a woman's risk of breast cancer. Females whose father, brother or sons have had prostate cancer may have a 14 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer according to researchers.

The researchers showed that those women with a family genetic history of both breast and prostate cancer were at a seventy-eight percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. And the danger was surprisingly greater for black women than whites.

The scientists found a connection, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship, between family history of prostate cancer and women's risk of developing breast cancer. But this is one of the largest studies, if not the largest study, to examine the link. The 14 percent increase is a small increase in risk but the breast cancer risk is still more important to assess the researchers said.

Dr. Dimmer, who led the study, told CBS news,

“The findings underscore the need for women to know their complete family medical history, particularly cancer diagnosed among first-degree relatives, including fathers, brothers and sons. Doctors should ask about all cancers in the family, even in members of the opposite sex.”

This information is important because it affects the way doctors should be screening the patient, it tells whether the patient may need more aggressive screening.

How was the study conducted?

The study was published in in the journal Cancer this week. Dimmer's team evaluated more than 78,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, which took place between 1993 and 1998.

At the beginning of the study, all were free of breast cancer. But when follow-up was done in 2009, more than 3,500 breast cancer cases had been diagnosed amongst the patients. The experts looked to see which patients' family members had either breast or prostate cancer in their histories.

Researchers said cancers of the breast and prostate are among the most common invasive cancers found in the United States. Statistics show that in 2014, around 233,000 new breast cancer cases and 233,000 new prostate cancer cases were reported in the United States, according to the study.

Fox news also reported on the study.

Fox says it is eye opening to see the fact that women with close male relatives with prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, as this will change the way patients are screened.

Fox reported, “More than 11 percent of women who developed breast cancer reported a first-degree relative with prostate cancer, compared to about 10 percent of women without the disease. Having a father, brother or son with prostate cancer increased the risk of breast cancer by about 14 percent.”

The researchers said especially when these things are compared to women with no family history of breast or prostate cancer, those with a family history of both were 80 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. 


Gerry Oginski
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