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Men with “breast cancer gene” four times more likely to get prostate cancer



Saturday 21 April 2012



Men with a faulty gene known to increase the risk of breast cancer in women are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer, important new research published in the British Journal of Cancer today shows.


A recent study, funded by Prostate Action and Cancer Research UK, shows that men with a mutated BRCA1 gene, found in those with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, are more prone to a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer.


It is hoped that this research, led by The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, will have a significant impact on potential screening and treatment procedures for prostate cancer patients. Early detection of the mutated BRCA1 gene could enable doctors to monitor those with a greater risk of prostate cancer from an early age, resulting in earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatment.


Age is currently the greatest risk factor for the disease, with over half of cases in the UK found in men over the age of 70. However, of the 913 men screened during the study, three quarters of those with the BRCA1 mutation were diagnosed before the age of 65, a clear indication that this gene could serve as an early warning for those at risk of developing prostate cancer later in life.


Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men worldwide, with the number of men diagnosed in the UK now greater than those with lung cancer. 37,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and the disease claims 10,000 lives every year. In fact, thanks in part to shockingly low rates of awareness, a man dies of prostate cancer every hour in the UK.


Despite this, recent research shows that 70% of men know absolutely nothing about the disease or its symptoms. Broader awareness of signs and symptoms among men, and a greater recognition of what to do when they are experienced, could save thousands of lives every year.


Prostate Action Chief Executive, Emma Malcolm, said: “Early detection of prostate cancer can vastly improve the chances of successful treatment but at the moment there isn’t an effective way of screening for the disease. We’ve long known about the link between breast cancer and prostate cancer and this research confirms the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer from the inherited faulty BRCA1 gene. Once gene testing becomes faster and cheaper we may be able to identify those men at a higher risk of prostate cancer and monitor them from an early age.”


New finding increases chances of rapid detection and targeted treatment

Study author Professor Ros Eeles, from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Until now there has been some doubt as to whether mutations in the BRCA1 gene increase the risk of prostate cancer. This large study has shown that men with prostate cancer have a 1 in 200 chance of having an alteration of this gene and men with this alteration have a 3.8 fold increased risk of developing the disease. This translates as nearly 9% risk of prostate cancer by the age of 65. The important thing about this result is that there are drugs that can target specific defects that occur with the BRCA1 mutation and this kind of result can open up the possibility of targeted medicines based on genetics.”


Josephine Querido, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “We suspected that men who inherited a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene had a higher risk of prostate cancer, and this study shows us exactly how much this increases their risk. This will help doctors find the best way to monitor these men and select the right treatments for them. Research like this will lead to new opportunities for preventing, diagnosing and treating the disease.”


                                                                    - ENDS –

    Media Contact: ICR Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106 or after hours 077217 47900


Notes to editors


About Prostate Action
Prostate Action funds research and education to beat prostate disease. Formed from the merger of Prostate UK and Prostate Cancer Research Foundation in 2010, we fund research and education into all three prostate diseases: benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer and prostatitis. We believe that by funding the best research and educating GPs, practice nurses, district nurses and newly qualified urologists, we aim to give all men a better chance of beating prostate disease. 

For more information about Prostate Action’s work or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact Gareth Ellis-Thomas on 020 8394 7971, email  or visit


About The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.
Scientists and clinicians at the ICR are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.
The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment.
As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.
The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. For more information visit


The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.
Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 44,000 patients every year.  It is a centre of excellence with an international reputation for groundbreaking research and pioneering the very latest in cancer treatments and technologies. The Royal Marsden also provides community services in the London boroughs of Sutton and Merton and in June 2010, along with the ICR, the Trust launched a new academic partnership with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex.
Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has helped raise over £50 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units.
Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital.
For more information, visit


British Journal of Cancer
The BJC is owned by Cancer Research UK. Its mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world's premier general cancer journals.


About Cancer Research UK
• Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research
• The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.
• Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last forty years.
• Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
• Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit

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