Men & BRCA Genes: What do they need to know?

For reasons, we do not fully understand BRCA 1/2 gene faults mainly cause and increased risk of breast and ovarian

cancer in women. Many people mistakenly believe that either men don’t carry BRCA genes at all or that having a faulty BRCA gene is not relevant to men within the family. This is not true. Men have BRCA genes; they can carry faulty BRCA genes. They will have a slightly increased risk of developing certain types of cancer and they can pass on the faulty gene down to both their sons and daughters.

 What are the cancer risks for men who have a BRCA alteration?

Men with BRCA alterations have increased risk for breast and prostate cancer, and like women with alterations, their risk for pancreatic cancer and melanoma may also be elevated. Men with BRCA2 alterations have greater risk than men with BRCA1 alterations.

Although men with BRCA alterations have a greater cancer risk than men in the general population, their risk for cancer is lower than most women with a alteration.

The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is approximately 1% with BRCA1 alterations and 6% with BRCA2 alterations.



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Prostate cancer

In Ireland, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and the risk increases with age. The average age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65 and 69 years.

A man with a BRCA1 alteration may be 3.4 times more likely to develop prostate cancer by age 65 than a man without this alteration. This may be 8.6 times more likely for a man with a BRCA2 alteration.

The IMPACT clinical trial is happening at the moment, and is investigating whether using the PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer would be good for men with a BRCA1 or 2 alteration. It’s also testing how BRCA alterations affect the predicted outcome of a man’s prostate cancer. The results of this trial are expected in 2017. Early results suggest that regular PSA testing may be beneficial for men with BRCA2 alterations from age 45, but we will need to wait for the final results before we can say for sure.

Research has also shown that prostate cancer in men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 alteration was more likely to be aggressive and to spread beyond the prostate.

The researchers suggest that this could mean that men who are known to have a BRCA1 or 2 alteration when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer should be treated as high-risk patients immediately and this may change the treatment that they are offered. However it is hoped that the IMPACT study will provide more answers.

Further information regarding prostate cancer can be found by clicking here.

To find out more about prostate cancer and how it can  affect your life, check out our Stand Up For Your Prostate campaign.