Australian researchers have discovered that a mutated version of the BRCA-2 gene known to lead to breast and ovarian cancer, is also a culprit in prostate cancer in men.
The researchers from the Australian and New Zealand consortium kConFab which investigates familial breast cancer, say they suspect that as many as 2,000 Australian men possibly have the gene mutation; prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in developed countries.
The researchers say men from families where the women have high rates of breast cancer could have a four times higher risk of prostate cancer.
The scientists believe the confirmation of the link is a world first and the research will help target those men suitable for genetic testing.
The research at kConFab has been investigating families with multiple cases of breast and ovarian cancer for a decade and became aware that prostate cancer also appeared to be common in some of the families.
The families carried a mutation in the BRCA2 gene, passed from one generation to the next, and the researchers say it was this factor which prompted them to explore whether the prostate cancers were caused by the familial genetic fault.
The team discovered that a man with a genetic fault in BRCA2 has almost four times the risk of developing prostate cancer than men in the general population and the cancers were more aggressive.
The revelation could lead men from a family with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer, to assess their risk in much the same way women already do with breast and ovarian cancer.
Trials are apparently now underway to search for early detection biomarkers for men who carry the faulty genes.
The research is published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.