Hereditary Cancer & Genetics: Inherited Risk for Prostate Cancer

About 5 to 10 percent of all prostate cancers diagnosed are hereditary, meaning that an increased risk for the disease runs in the family.

Family history is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. A man with one close relative with prostate cancer – for example, a father or a brother – is twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as a man with no family history of the disease.

If two close male relatives are affected, a man’s lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer is increased five-fold.

In recent years, studies have begun to identify a number of heritable genetic changes that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing prostate cancer. For example, research done at Memorial Sloan Kettering suggests that men with mutations in the gene BRCA2 have an increased risk for prostate cancer.

Investigators are now working to determine to what an extent this and other mutations play a role in causing the disease. Such understanding may lead to improved methods to identify men who are at increased risk, and could also lead to the development of new treatments.

Managing the Risk for Hereditary Prostate Cancer

Currently there is no clinical testing for genes that have been linked to an inherited risk for prostate cancer.

However, if you are concerned about your hereditary risk because multiple family members have developed prostate cancer — or because someone in your family was diagnosed with the disease at an early age— doctors and genetics specialists can help you manage your risk.

You can make an appointment with one of our genetic counselors by calling the Clinical Genetics Service at 646-888-4050.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Screening for prostate cancer involves a blood test called a prostate-screening antigen (PSA) test, which measures the blood levels of a protein produced by the prostate.

Learn more about this test and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s guidelines for prostate cancer screening.