Prostate cancer takes a greater toll on Black men than on men of other races. In the United States, one in six Black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime, compared to one in eight men overall. Black men are also more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
While past studies have identified nearly 270 genetic variants linked to prostate cancer risk, researchers have yet to find a clear explanation for the disproportionate risk among men of African ancestry. Genetic research thus far has also failed to predict which men face a high risk for aggressive prostate cancer, versus those who may get less deadly forms of the disease.
A new study led by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California examined genome-wide association study data from more than 80,000 men. The study identified nine new genetic risk factors for prostate cancer, seven of which are found either largely or exclusively in men of African ancestry.
“The ability to differentiate between the risk for aggressive and non-aggressive forms of the disease is of critical importance,” said Christopher Haiman, who holds AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research at the university’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the study. “Until now, risk scores haven’t been able to do that.”
These findings can be used to refine polygenic risk scores, tools that assess a person’s risk for a condition based on the combined influence of multiple genetic factors. More accurate polygenic risk scores for men of African descent could help in identifying high-risk patients early on. The newly identified variants can be incorporated into genetic tests that help patients understand their cancer risk and decide how early and often to get screened.
The full study, “Evidence of Novel Susceptibility Variants for Prostate Cancer and a Multiancestry Polygenic Risk Score Associated with Aggressive Disease in Men of African Ancestry,” was published on the website of the journal European Urology. It may be accessed here.