Link between heredity and prostate cancer survival times in Sweden


So it appears that prostate cancer survival (and not just risk for prostate cancer) runs in families — at least in Sweden!

There have been multiple studies designed to look at risk for prostate cancer based on familial history. And while family history is a known risk factor for prostate cancer, its effect on survival has not been clear at all. However, a study just published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology seems to show that “good and poor survival [times] in prostate cancer aggregate in families.” In other words (just as an example), if a father has prostate cancer and his cancer progresses quickly, then if his sons also get prostate cancer they are also at risk for a more aggressive form of the disease! The authors suggest that, in fact, factors governing survival in prostate cancer may be different from those governing risk for prostate cancer. This is certainly a novel concept.

Hemminki  and her colleagues used the nationwide Swedish Family Cancer Database to estimate hazard rates (HRs) for cause-specific and overall survival in men with invasive prostate cancer. HRs can show the probability of death in a study group compared with a reference group. Their study covered 610 sons of fathers affected by prostate cancer. They showed that the sons’ survival was closely related to the fathers’ survival: the HR was 0.62 for sons whose fathers had survived longer than 59 months, compared with sons whose fathers had survived fewer than 24 months. On a continuous scale, the sons’ survival times increased almost linearly with the fathers’ survival times.

The authors go on to suggest that “Genetic factors are likely to contribute to the results, which provide the first challenging population-level evidence on heritability in prognosis of prostate cancer.”

Is it possible that the Connecticut cancer database could be analyzed for similar information in the USA?

One Response

  1. We have a brief follow up to this report.

    Dr. Peter Albertsen of the University of Connecticut Health System, who is an expert on prostate cancer epidemiology and related issues, has advised us that he doubts if a study like this would be possible in the USA for two reasons: (a) The cancer databases (even including the Connecticut database) don’t include this type of familial information. (b) Even if they did, the HIPAA health care privacy regulations would probably make it impossible to do the study!

    This study needs to be repeated somewhere. Canada? Australia? The UK? Anyone got any ideas?

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