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Men with 'Angelina Jolie gene' at double the risk of prostate cancer

Henry Bodkin
PSA screening is currently not recommended for all men - © Illia Uriadnikov / Alamy Stock Photo

Men with the so-called “Angelina Jolie gene” are at double the risk of developing prostate cancer, a study has found, as scientists call for them to be screened.

The BRCA2 gene fault is usually associated with breast and ovarian cancer in women - with those who carry it having a 50 per cent to 85 per cent risk of developing breast cancer by age 70.

Now a large study has now found men with the faulty gene have a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer and their tumours tend to be more aggressive than people without the fault.

Both men and women can pass down mutations in the BRCA genes and men may become aware they have a faulty gene if there is a family history of breast cancer.

The family of mutations gained global fame when actress Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after discovering she had inherited the BRCA1 mutation.

Angelina Jolie  Credit: Invision

Previous studies have shown that the standard test for prostate cancer (prostate-specific antigen or PSA) would not work as a screening tool for the general population as it is not reliable enough.

But the new study found PSA tests were more likely to pick out more serious forms of prostate cancer in men who carry the BRCA2 gene fault than in non-carriers.

This means men with the faulty gene could benefit from regular PSA testing.

The study - published in the journal European Urology - included data for 902 BRCA2 carriers and 497 BRCA2 non-carriers.

All men were offered a yearly PSA test for three years and those with elevated PSA reading were offered a biopsy to confirm whether they had cancer.

The researchers found that men who carry the BRCA2 gene fault were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as non-carriers.

Those with the BRCA2 gene fault also had more serious tumours - with 77 per cent of men having clinically significant disease compared with 40 per cent of non-carriers.

Men with the fault were also diagnosed at a younger age - at an average of 61 compared with 64 for non-carriers.

Experts estimate that about one in 300 white men could be carrying the genetic fault, but not all of them will develop prostate cancer.

Study leader Rosalind Eeles, professor of oncogenetics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: "For women who undergo genetic testing, options are available to them if they carry a BRCA fault, including preventative surgery and increased screening.

"But there's no prevention pathway in place if men decide to find out if they're a carrier, which is why our research is so important.”