BRCA Genes & Prostate Cancer

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What are BRCA genes?

BRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene, although this gene is not only related to breast cancer.

Both men and women naturally have two BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. These are passed done (inherited) from your parents. These genes repair cell damage and help prevent certain cancers from developing. They are called cancer suppressor genes. However, these genes can mutate (are changed), which alters their structure and function.

Follow the link to learn what are gene mutations?

What are the risks of prostate cancer with BRCA gene mutations?

About 1 in 500 Australian men carry a BRCA1 mutation and 1 in 225 have a BRCA2 mutation. If you have a BRCA gene mutation, it doesn’t mean you will get prostate cancer, but you have a higher risk of the disease, and your cancer may be more aggressive (fast growing) and more likely to spread.

BRCA gene mutations are also related to breast and ovarian cancer, so if you have one or more family members with these diseases your risk of prostate cancer is increased.

What are the estimated risks of BRCA mutations?

Breast cancer in men.
Did you know that men can also get breast cancer. Over 200 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year. Your risk of getting breast cancer is higher of you have a BRCA mutation
  • If you have a BRCA1 mutation you have a 9% risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to 5% in the general population. You also have a 1% risk of developing breast cancer.
  • If you have a BRCA2 mutation you have a 15% risk of developing prostate cancer. You also have a 7% risk of developing breast cancer, compared to much less than 1% in the general population.
  • If you have a BRCA2 gene mutation you are five times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and at a younger age. You are also twice as likely to have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.
  • About 10% of men with advanced cancer have BRCA mutations. Around 50% of those are inherited (germline) and 50% are not inherited (somatic). (2 – video)
  • About 10–12% of men with a type of prostate cancer called metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer have BRCA mutations.

What can you do if you are concerned about BRCA mutations?

As BRCA gene mutations can be inherited, it is a good idea to know your family history and other risk factors, especially if there is breast, ovarian or other cancers in your family. If your doctor advises that you are at higher risk of getting prostate cancer, you may need to start PSA testing at an earlier age (40–45 years). Talk to your doctor about your family history and if you have any concerns about having BRCA gene mutations.

Testing for BRCA mutations may be available to you, depending on your circumstances. Recent breakthroughs mean if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation there may be a specific treatment for you. You can read more about testing at Genetic Risks & Testing.

You can also talk to your doctor who may refer you to a genetic counsellor or contact a PCFA nurse for more information and advice.

Key points

  • BRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene. Everyone has these genes and they help prevent certain cancers.
  • There are two BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • Mutations of the BRCA genes cause an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • BRCA gene mutations can also increase the risk of having a more aggressive prostate cancer, and being diagnosed at a younger age.
  • BRCA genes are also related to breast and ovarian cancer. You have a higher risk of prostate cancer if you have a family history of these cancers.
  • It is best to know and discuss your family history and all risk factors with your doctor.
  • You can talk to your doctor about whether testing for BRCA gene mutations is appropriate for you.
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