Men with the genetic change had a 26 percent higher risk of having
aggressive prostate cancer, the researchers reported in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
“A single variant with a moderate effect such as this is unlikely to be
sufficient on its own at predicting risk,” said Jianfeng Xu of Wake
Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who led the
“But its identification is significant because it indicates that
variants predisposing men to aggressive disease exist in the genome.”
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of US men, after
lung cancer, with more than 192,000 cases diagnosed in 2009 and 27,000
deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
Most cases are very slow-growing and would never kill the patient or
even cause symptoms, but it is very difficult to predict whose tumors
are likely to spread.
A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in
September said that 85 percent of cases will never spread, and another
study published in August found that one million US men had been
diagnosed with and treated for prostate tumors that would never have
“We speculate that a panel of variants could be an important part of
developing a screening strategy that could reduce the number of men
requiring screening, thereby reducing over-diagnosis, while also
identifying men at risk for developing aggressive disease at a stage
when the disease is potentially curable,” Xu said.
The international team of researchers studied 4,849 men with aggressive
prostate cancer that had spread and 12,205 men with slow-growing
disease, looking at 27,000 different genetic mutations called single
nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs.
They found one that was 26 percent more common in the men with
aggressive disease. It was found in 32 percent of 4,829 men with
aggressive disease and 28 percent of 12,205 men who had slow-growing
This could be more useful than some of the other SNPs that have been
linked with prostate cancer, they said, but will not, on its own, be
good for predicting who needs surgery or radiation to treat early stage