Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer, with 233,000 new cases projected for this year.
The leading risk factors for prostate cancer are age, race, and a family history of the disease. Prostate cancer is rarely seen in men younger than 40, but the incidence rises significantly each decade after that. The risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer is higher among black men than whites. And experts believe that 5–10% of prostate cancer cases are caused primarily by the inheritance of high-risk genes. Men who have one or more close relatives with prostate cancer are at increased risk.
To learn more about research on the disease, we spoke with Constantine Stratakis, M.D., D.Med.Sc., Director of the NICHD's Division of Intramural Research, who has found variations in a gene (PDE11A) that appear to increase prostate cancer risk. The genetic variations impair the enzyme phosphodiesterase 11A, which is involved in cell energy metabolism and helps regulate cells' responses to hormones and other signals.
Previous studies by NIH researchers have linked genetic variations in PDE11A with increased susceptibility to testicular cancer and adrenal tumors.
The following is a brief Q&A with Dr. Stratakis about his work on the genetics of prostate cancer. You can also find a video in which Dr. Stratakis discusses his work on PDE11A.
Your areas of expertise are developmental endocrinology and genetics, and much of your work has focused on the adrenal gland. How did you become interested in prostate cancer?
You directed a study that looked at variations of the gene PDE11A among men with prostate cancer. What did you find?
What is the significance of these findings for men's health care? For example, could it affect future screening or treatment methods?
African American men are more at risk for prostate cancer, and prostate cancer can run in families. Could the genetic variations you found be related to the higher risk in these populations?
Is it possible for men to find out whether they have these genetic variations? If they could, would it be useful information to have?
Have you continued with this line of research? If so, what are you doing now?
If a friend asked you about prostate cancer, what would be your most important message?
Originally Posted: June 26, 2014
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