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Genetic Test can Detect Prostate Cancer Risk in Men

Update Date: Feb 09, 2013 04:56 PM EST

A new kind of genetic test will help physicians diagnose prostate cancer without the need of prostate biopsies, according to research from Japan. Researchers say that the genetic test could be given along with the test for prostate specific antigen (PSA).

Prostate cancer occurs in tissues of prostate- a gland that is present below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. National Cancer Institute says that, an estimated 238,590 new cases will be diagnosed and about 29,720 men will die from the cancer in the U.S in 2013.

The genetic test is based on previous work conducted by Hidewaki Nakagawa of the RIKEN Center for Genomic Medicine in Yokohama and colleagues. The test includes 16 DNA markers. This particular study, published in the year 2010, involved genetic data of 11,000 men from Japan with or without the cancer. Researchers showed that they could assess a person's risk of developing prostate cancer and that their prediction is independent of the PSA level in the body.

PSA levels are checked to know if the person has prostate cancer. PSA level test can't confirm the presence of prostate cancer, Medline Plus says. Only a prostate biopsy can diagnose the cancer.

Researchers in the present study conducted the genetic test on people in the 'PSA gray-zone' who have high levels of PSA, but don't have the cancer. Note that even in people with elevated levels of PSA- a biomarker for prostate cancer- just 20 to 25 percent develop prostate cancer and the others have some other problems related to prostate.

About 42 percent men that got high risk status in the genetic test were found to have prostate cancer compared to just 11 percent of the people who were put in the low risk category by the genetic test.  

Generally, when the PSA level test results are ambiguous, like those for the PSA grey zone, doctors perform additional tests like biopsies to determine whether or not the person has cancer. Researchers say that their genetic test will eliminate the need of biopsies.

"With a super-aging society coming to Japan and other Asian countries, there will be more prostate cancer patients and candidates, and more medical costs related to prostate cancer. So we have to establish 'personalized medicine' approaches to screen, diagnose, and prevent prostate diseases more precisely and more efficiently," said Nakagawa, lead author of the study, in a news release.

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