A family history of cancer and genetic variants that could be inherited appear to be significant risk factors for black men diagnosed with early-onset prostate cancer, according to a study involving researchers from Duke Health.
Kathleen Cooney, MD, chair of Duke’s Department of Medicine, is lead author of the study published online Nov. 29 in the journal JCO Precision Oncology.
Genetic studies typically recruit non-Hispanic white men, despite data showing that black men are disproportionately affected by prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease as their white counterparts.
Researchers sought to address this health disparity by identifying genetic variants in black patients diagnosed with early-onset prostate cancer.
They sequenced the germline DNA of 743 black men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 62 or younger. This is the DNA present in the sperm of these men, which means that it would contain genetic modifications likely to be passed on to a child.
The focus was on DNA damage repair genes and the HOXB13 gene, a gene that Cooney’s research team found to be associated with hereditary prostate cancer in white men. The researchers identified 26 variants in 14 genes that could cause the disease in 30 men, or about 4% of the patients studied.
We completed the sequencing at Duke and our results reveal that men who had certain genetic variants were more likely to have a close relative diagnosed with cancer, to have higher prostate-specific antigen at diagnosis, and to have more severe cases. »
Kathleen Cooney, MD, chair of Duke’s Department of Medicine
“We need to look more closely at genetic associations to learn more about black men’s susceptibility to developing prostate cancer,” Cooney said. “This could potentially reduce health disparities.”
The reason for poor outcomes in black men diagnosed with prostate cancer includes both biological and societal causes, such as access to health care. Data from a previous study reveals that genetic heritage may explain up to 40% of all cases of prostate cancer.
“November is Men’s Health Awareness Month and we hope these findings will help black men become aware of their susceptibility to early-onset prostate cancer,” Cooney said. “If men know they have a family history of cancer, it’s important to talk to a doctor and consider genetic testing. If they are found to have a mutation, they are encouraged to get tested earlier and more frequently. »