Medical Q&As

Prostate cancer - inherited risk?

My husband's family has a history of prostate cancer. His grandfather, father and two uncles have died from it and one uncle on his motherís side of the family has developed it recently. My husband is almost 38; should he begin having the PSA test done now or should he wait till he is 40?

Carcinoma of the prostate is extremely rare in men under the age of forty. It is generally recommended that PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing should commence when a man reaches fifty years of age however, in the case of a strong family history such as you describe then it is recommended that screening commence at forty. There is probably no particular advantage to your husband commencing screening at 38 years of age. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases if a father or a brother developed prostate cancer at a young age. Therefore the age at which your husbandís relatives developed this cancer is an important consideration. It is also worth noting that if a female relative had breast cancer under the age of forty this might also increase the risk of prostate cancer in first-degree male relatives. In a tiny number of cases there can be an increased susceptibility to developing prostate cancer amongst first-degree relatives because of the inheritance of a faulty BRCA2 gene. This particular gene has also been implicated in breast cancer in women.