Is Prostate Cancer Hereditary?

Li Liu, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Is prostate cancer hereditary?  
Thank you.

Li Liu, MD, OncoLink editorial assistant, responds:

Dear T:
Thank you for your interest and question.

Familial patterns ("aggregations") of some cancers are not uncommon. Exposure to the same environmental factors within families and/or inheritance of cancer genes are both possible explanations for these patterns.

Several epidemiological studies have shown a familial aggregation of prostate cancer (Prostate 1990;17(4):337-47; Cancer 1996 Jan 1;77(1):138-43) and 5 to 10% of all prostate cancer is estimated to be hereditary (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1992 Apr 15;89(8):3367-71). Several prostate carcinoma susceptibility genes have been identified over the last few years through linkage analysis: HPC1 (Science 1996 Nov 22;274(5291):1371-4), HPCX (Nat Genet 1998 Oct;20(2):175-9), and two additional loci on chromosomes 1p36 (Am J Hum Genet 1999 Mar;64(3):776-87) and 1q42-43 (Am J Hum Genet 1999 Apr;64(4):1087-95). Thus, it appears likely that there are prostate-cancer genes that can be inherited.

In addition to the higher incidence of prostate cancer in the families with hereditary prostate cancer, a recent study from Sweden demonstrated an aggregation of breast, gastric or kidney cancers in a subset of families with hereditary prostate cancer (Cancer 2000 Sep 15;89(6):1315-21). This suggests that a common germline mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene may be responsible for the aggregation of these diseases.