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Study finds link between prostate cancer and breast cancer in families

March 13, 2015

Women Wearing Pink To Fight Breast Cancer

Within applications for biospecimen research, there may be no single condition that receives more attention than cancer. Whether it affects the brain, lungs, or blood, there is constant research attempting to formulate new ways of identifying, treating, and understanding metastatic tumors and all the attendant health issues they cause.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit and published in the journal Cancer, the presence of prostate cancer in males may be a predictor of breast cancer in first-degree female relatives.

Cancer in the US
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women driving troves of research each year into understanding its causality and correlations. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 231,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Approximately 12 percent of women will develop the condition over the course of their lifetimes.

Similarly, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. The ACS predicts more than 220,000 new prostate cancer diagnoses among men in 2015 and asserts that an average of 14% of all men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes.

Given the fact that such sizable portions of the population are affected by these two cancers, the authors of the Cancer study sought to understand if there is a link within families. The researchers examined data on over 78,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study that took place between 1993 and 1998. Researchers focused on the women who by 2009 had been diagnosed with breast cancer – none of the women at the start of the study had been diagnosed. They found that women whose fathers, brothers, or sons are diagnosed with prostate cancer face higher odds of developing breast cancer.

More specifically, Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of oncology at Wayne State University, found that a first-degree family history of prostate cancer was associated with a 14 percent increase in breast cancer risk for women and for women with family histories of both prostate and breast cancer a 78 percent increased risk.

"This is not the first study to examine this relationship, but it is one of the larger to date, if not the largest study," Beebe-Dimmer said in a statement. "Both of these cancers are relatively common, so that it is possible when cancers are diagnosed in multiple family members it may be due to chance. It may also be an exposure to something in the environment."

Genetic causes
While Beebe-Dimmer explained that further research is required to uncover the underlying reason for the link between prostate and breast cancer, it is known that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been connected to both conditions, signifying that there may be some genetic connection.

Continued research will be necessary to dive deeper into the relationship between prostate and breast cancer in families.