Could More Men Benefit from Genetic Testing for Prostate Cancer Risk?

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Many men who might benefit from testing for inherited genetic mutations that increase prostate cancer risk aren’t getting screened, according to a 2019 study in JAMA Oncology.

Current guidelines recommend the blood test for those at high risk, notably men with a family history of the disease (especially those with multiple first-degree relatives who have been affected, early age of onset, or fatal disease) or related cancers (such as breast and ovarian cancers) or who have been diagnosed with very high-grade or metastatic tumors (tumors that have spread to other organs such as bone).

In the study, 3,607 men diagnosed with prostate cancer were asked to undergo genetic testing between 2013 and 2017. No consideration was given to their family history or tumor severity. Researchers found that 17 percent of the participants carried susceptibility genes, but more than one-third of these men would not have been referred for genetic testing and counseling per current guidelines. The guidelines used in this study have since been updated in response to some of the concerns, but the authors recommend simplifying current recommendations and expanding them to include more men.

Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for testing and counseling based on current guidelines. Results from genetic testing can have important management implications for a number of men with or at risk for prostate cancer and their families.