Highlights: A recent study, published in BMC Cancer, found a link between familial breast cancer and mens’ risk for prostate cancer. This article summarizes the key takeaways of this study, including:
- Men with first-degree female relatives with breast cancer had an increased risk of prostate cancer, including lethal prostate cancer.
- A patient’s risk of prostate cancer varied in severity, depending on the degree of relationship of female family members with breast cancer.
- This research can help with future prostate cancer screening, prevention, and treatment for men whose families have a history of breast cancer.
Curious about the link between female breast cancer and prostate cancer? Learn more about the recent study by reading ahead.
What Does Research Say About the Relationship Between Breast and Prostate Cancer?
A recent study, published in BMC Cancer, was the first to successfully evaluate the relationship between family histories of female breast cancer and prostate cancer risk.
Here are the key takeaways from this study:
- The methods. The authors performed a meta-analysis, using eighteen studies and 17,004,892 patients. They compared patients with a family history of female breast cancer to patients without a family history of female breast cancer to determine if an association existed between family breast cancer history and prostate cancer risk.
- The results. When comparing the group with no family history of breast cancer to the group with a family history of breast cancer, those with first-degree relatives with cancer showed an increased risk for prostate cancer, with moderate-quality evidence. Those with a family history of breast cancer in daughters only were not associated with prostate cancer incidence. Those with a first-degree relative family history of female breast cancer were associated with an 18 percent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer but with low-quality evidence.
- The conclusion. Men with first-degree female relatives with breast cancer have an increased risk of prostate cancer, including lethal prostate cancer.
- The implications. This study may be used to guide future screening, early detection, and treatment in men with a family history of female breast cancer.
As with many studies, additional research is needed to determine the extent of association between breast and prostate cancer. The specific mechanisms of the association between breast and prostate cancer risk have not yet been determined.
However, these findings serve as a reminder of the influence of family history in cancer risk and the importance of early screening.
What Do I Need to Know About Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is cancer that begins in the prostate. Your prostate is the small, walnut-shaped gland that produces seminal fluid to transport sperm out of the penis. Some types of prostate cancer are slow to grow, while others are more aggressive and require more intensive treatment.
Prostate cancer is common, and as many as 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer can be deadly if left untreated, so it is important to catch it and treat it early. Treatment may require surgery, radiation therapy, or another targeted therapy.
Should I Get Screened for Prostate Cancer?
Men who are over the age of 55, have any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, or who are at an increased risk for prostate cancer may wish to consider being screened for prostate cancer. The United States Preventive Service Task Force recommends that men aged 55-69 be routinely screened for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, but recommendations vary among experts.
The choice to be screened is personal and depends on your risk and your personal comfort with being screened for prostate cancer. But it’s a decision that should include a conversation with your doctor.
Men at a higher risk for prostate cancer include:
- Men with a family history of cancer. Men with a family history of breast cancer or prostate cancer may be at an increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Older men. Prostate cancer is most likely to affect men over the age of 50.
- Men who are obese. Research is divided on whether or not obesity contributes to prostate cancer risk. However, men who are obese are more often diagnosed with aggressive forms of prostate cancer when compared to men who are not overweight or obese.
- African Americans. Black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at a significantly higher rate than white men.
Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the semen
- Bone pain
- Decreased force or pressure of urine stream
- Difficulty urinating
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Losing weight without trying
If you notice any concerning symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your screening options. If you are at an increased risk for prostate cancer, you should abide by all early screening recommendations for prostate cancer. Always speak to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding your risk for prostate cancer.
What Does Treatment for Prostate Cancer Look Like?
One of the most common treatments for prostate cancer is a prostatectomy, which involves partial or entire removal of the prostate. Radiation therapy is also a common treatment for prostate cancer. Your treatment plan will depend on your specific situation.
Though less common, other treatment options for prostate cancer include:
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
What Are the Risks Associated with Prostate Surgery?
One of the highest risks after prostate surgery is damage to nerves within the male reproductive organs. A “nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy” is commonly performed to reduce risk of irreversible nerve damage. Your risk of experiencing problems after prostate surgery or treatment will vary, depending on the specific treatment performed.
Common complications after prostate surgery include:
- Dry orgasm (climaxing without expelling semen)
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Formation of cysts containing lymph
- Narrowing of the urethra
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
How Can Prostate Cancer Impact My Sexual Health?
Cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a negative impact on your sexual health and intimacy. The physical effects of treatment and the mental and emotional distress can have equally troubling consequences. However, a cancer diagnosis does not have to mean the end of a fulfilling sex life.
Nearly all men who undergo a prostatectomy will experience erectile dysfunction following surgery. It’s common for men to struggle with ED for 18 months or longer after prostate surgery, even after medical treatment. Some men may also develop psychologically induced ED prior to surgery due to the stress of diagnosis and anxiety surrounding sexual performance.
Complications, such as ED or dry orgasm, can be lifelong. However, thanks to modern treatments, many men can still get erections and reach orgasm following cancer treatment. You should speak with your care team to address your concerns prior to and following prostate surgery.
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Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).