Your blood type may affect your risk for prostate cancer mortality

Perhaps the most fascinating paper to be presented this year at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium has to do with blood typing and risk for lethal prostate cancer.

According to a poster presented by Urun et al. from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, men with the blood group AB are significantly less likely to develop lethal prostate cancer than men with blood type O or A or B, although they do not differ in their risk for an initial diagnosis of prostate cancer.

The authors conducted a  prospective evaluation of the association between ABO blood group and risk of lethal prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) from 1996 to 2008. Here is a summary of what they found:

  • The study was based on 12 years of follow-up of data from 26,602 men.
  • During this follow-up period, they documented
    • 2,703 cases of incident prostate cancer
    • 289/2,703 cases of lethal prostate cancer (i.e., prostate cancer-specific death or distant metastases)
  • The frequency of ABO blood type was similar between
    • Men who developed prostate cancer (A, 37 percent; AB, 7 percent; B, 13 percent; O, 43 percent)
    • Other study participants (A, 37 percent; AB, 8 percent; B, 12 percent; O, 43 percent)
  • Blood type was not associated with overall incidence of prostate cancer diagnosis, but …
  • Compared to men with blood group O,
    • Men with blood group AB were much less likely to develop lethal prostate cancer (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.39).
    • Men with blood types A or B showed no reduction in risk for lethal disease.
  • ABO blood type was not significantly associated with risk of advanced stage or high-grade cancers (Gleason score 8 to 10).

Now this is very definitely a finding that will need to be confirmed by additional studies, but if it is shown to be true, it has significant implications for the management of the 7 to 8 percent of patients of blood type AB who are diagnosed with low- and even intermediate-risk prostate cancer  because their risk of progression to metastatic disease would appear to be far lower than that of patients with blood types A, B, or O.

3 Responses

  1. Did they mention in the presentation what caused them to undertake this study? Did they already suspect blood type might be a factor in cancer progression? Or was there some sort of data mining exercise which had uncovered the correlation? Might this be applicable to other types of cancer? (Also, I looked at a chart from the Stanford Blood center which lists the frequency of type AB in the US as 4%. I wonder why the frequency in this study is almost twice that? Is it rare for a female to have type AB?) Were other studies relating blood type and cancer sited?

  2. Doug:

    If you look at the actual abstract it includes the following introductory statement:

    “An individual’s blood group is defined by variability in glycotransferases expressed on red blood cell surface; these ABO antigens are also highly expressed on epithelial cells. Previous studies have suggested associations between ABO blood group and increased risk of epithelial cancers including gastric, pancreatic, and ovarian; however, its relationship with risk of prostate carcinoma, and its aggressiveness remains unclear.”

    I have only seen the abstract, so I am unable to answer your other questions.

  3. Possibly, since I have AB blood type, this explains my longevity despite living with continuing prostate cancer post-initial surgical removal followed by salvage radiation therapy followed by on/off ADT since 1992 — and still no evidence of metastases.

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