"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Study: Men with the BRCA gene variant must have a PSA test.

By Charlie Schmidt

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test may raise more questions than it answers. If your levels are high, it might mean that your prostate is enlarged or infected. This could mean you've got prostate cancer. It may additionally mean that your prostate gland is healthy, as normal PSA levels vary from one man to a different. Because of this mutation, PSA tests often result in prostate biopsies in men who should not have cancer. Therefore, doctors may prefer to only perform the PSA test on men at high risk for prostate cancer. A study was published this month in the journal European Urology This suggests that men with mutations in a cancer-suppressing gene often called BRCA have the next risk of aggressive prostate tumors, and should due to this fact profit from PSA testing.

The BRCA gene is available in two forms, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Both make proteins that repair genetic damage that every one cells experience 1000's of times a day. When these genes carry the improper code, they don't do what they're purported to do. This faulty code may be passed down from generation to generation. “Bad” BRCA genes (BRCA-positive) lose their DNA-fixing ability. As a result, genetic damage can accumulate to the purpose where healthy cells turn into cancer.

In women, miscoded BRCA genes are known risk aspects for breast and ovarian cancer. This recent research shows that they may cause problems for men too. The study authors recommend that men with the miscoded BRCA gene have routine PSA tests.

“PSA can detect early-stage cancers in men while they are still treatable,” says William Isaacs, PhD, professor of urology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. who weren't included on this study.

An international team of researchers is following nearly 2,500 men as a part of a study called IMPACT. This includes some men with miscoded BRCA genes and a few men with normal BRCA genes. Of these, 199 had elevated PSA levels, 162 of whom had undergone a prostate biopsy to search for prostate cancer. Biopsies revealed prostate cancer in 59 men. BRCA-positive men had the next risk of cancer than men with the traditional BRCA gene. Equally necessary, men within the BRCA-positive group — especially those with BRCA2 mutations — are likely to have more advanced, aggressive tumors.