The role of family history in prostate cancer risk: What you need to know

Prostate cancer is a common cancer among men, with more than 191,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2020. While the precise cause of prostate cancer is still not known, there are certain risk factors that increase a man’s chance of developing this disease. One of these risk factors is a family history of prostate cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, men who have a father, brother, or son with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease themselves. The risk is even higher if the family member had prostate cancer before the age of 65. This increased risk is believed to be due to inherited gene mutations that can increase the chances of developing prostate cancer.

Having a family history of prostate cancer does not mean that a man will definitely develop the disease. However, it does mean that he should be more vigilant and proactive in monitoring his prostate health. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should talk to their doctor about when they should begin regular prostate cancer screenings.

The screening process for prostate cancer typically involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). The PSA test measures the level of a protein produced by the prostate gland in the blood. If the PSA level is higher than normal, it could indicate the presence of prostate cancer. The DRE involves a doctor or nurse feeling the prostate gland through the rectum to check for any lumps or abnormal areas.

Men with a family history of prostate cancer may also benefit from genetic counseling and testing. Genetic testing can identify inherited gene mutations that increase the risk of prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. If a man tests positive for these mutations, he and his doctor can consider more frequent and aggressive screening or even preventive measures such as surgery or medication.

In addition to monitoring prostate health, men with a family history of prostate cancer can also lower their risk by making certain lifestyle changes. Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red meat and saturated fat is recommended. Regular exercise is also important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of prostate cancer.

In summary, a family history of prostate cancer is one of the most significant risk factors for this disease. Men with a family history should talk to their doctor about when they should begin regular screening and consider genetic counseling and testing. By being proactive and making lifestyle changes, men can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer and catch it early if it does arise.

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