155,163 registered members
Finger length link to prostate cancer risk
[Posted: Wed 01/12/2010 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
Men who have long index fingers may be at a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, the results of a new study indicate.
Every year in Ireland, over 2,000 men are newly diagnosed with cancer of the prostate, while 500 die as a result of the disease.
UK researchers followed the progress of 1,500 prostate cancer patients and 3,000 people without the disease over a 15-year period. The men were shown a series of pictures of different finger length patterns and asked to identify the one most similar to their own right hand.
The most common finger length pattern, seen in more than half of the men in the study, was a shorter index than ring finger.
The study found that men whose index fingers were longer than their ring finger were 33% less likely to have prostate cancer. Risk reduction was even greater in men aged under 60 years - these men were 87% less likely to be in the prostate cancer group.
The relative length of index and ring fingers is set before birth and is thought to relate to the level of sex hormones the baby is exposed to in the womb. Less testosterone equates to a longer index finger.
The researchers now believe that being exposed to less testosterone before birth helps protect against prostate cancer later in life. The phenomenon is thought to occur because the genes HOXA and HOXD control both finger length and development of sex organs.
Previous studies have found a link between exposure to hormones while in the womb and the development of other diseases, including breast cancer, which is linked to higher prenatal oestrogen exposure and osteoarthritis, which is linked to having an index finger shorter than the ring finger.
"Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb which can have an effect decades later. As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the make-up of the disease," explained lead researcher, Prof Ken Muir, of the University of Warwick.
The team added that relative finger length ‘could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk, particularly in men aged under 60'.
Details of these findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer.
|To join the discussion, register by clicking here|