Male Or Female: Cancer Genes Can’t Tell


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, right after skin cancer. While genetic testing and counseling may be offered for women with family histories of breast and ovarian cancers, doctors have had little guidance on genetic screening for inherited prostate cancer, but that could be changing.

“Turns out that cancer came along and you just don’t let it get you down, you don’t let it beat you,” David ‘Doc’ Livingston explained to Ivanhoe.

Doc had both bladder and prostate cancer. His dad, uncle and brother all died from lymphatic and prostate cancer, leading him to DNA testing, out of concern for his own two sons. What Doc didn’t know was that women in his family could also be at risk. Researchers say inherited cancers cross genders.

“For example, BRCA2, the second breast cancer gene can lead to increased risk of prostate cancer in men and if a woman inherits a mutation in those genes, an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for women.” Veda N. Giri, MD, Director, Cancer Risk Assessment and Clinical Cancer Genetics; Associate Professor, Medical Oncology and Cancer Biology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University explained. (Read Full Interview)

This insight into the underlying genetic cause of prostate cancer may ultimately shape the treatment, management and screening of patients.

“We expect that it’s actually going to inform even earlier stage disease for prostate cancer, as well,” said Doctor Giri.

When it comes to cancer detection, researchers say the earlier the better.

Doctor Giri continued, “So, for example, if a man is in a family that has a BRCA2 mutation, and he has inherited that mutation, whether it’s from his father or his mother, he would be recommended to start prostate cancer screening at a younger age.”

David says it’s potentially life-saving information that makes the testing process all worthwhile.

Livingston explained, “That’s nothing compared to what the suffering that so many people have with the different types of cancers that are out there.”

Men at average risk of prostate cancer should have a discussion with their doctors about screening starting at age 50. Men at higher- than- average risk, like those with family history, should have the discussion starting at age 40 or 45. Doctor Giri says David did not carry the BRCA gene, but did show variants in genes, which are earlier indicators that mutations might be underway.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4382

CANCER RISK ASSESSMENT: Individuals are considered to be candidates for cancer risk assessment if they have a personal or family history/clinical characteristics with features that may suggest hereditary cancer. These features can vary, but criteria has been published to help identify those who would benefit from genetic counseling. It’s important that these individuals undergo genetic education and counseling before testing so they are prepared to make informed decisions and adapt to the risk or condition. Cancer risk assessment and counseling includes clinical assessment, genetic testing when appropriate, and risk management recommendations given at genetic counseling sessions. Traditionally these services have been delivered via in-person, individualized appointments.


GENETICS AND CANCER: Some types of cancer may run in certain families, but most are not clearly linked to the genes inherited from our parents. Gene changes that begin in a single cell over the course of a person’s life cause most cancers. But advances in genetics and molecular biology have increased knowledge of the inner workings of cells. Certain mutations are commonly found in the cells of certain types of cancer, and finding these can confirm the diagnosis of that cancer. In some cancers, particular gene changes can be used to predict which patients are likely to have better or worse outcomes, and this can help guide the intensity of treatment. Drugs have been developed that target some of the gene changes in certain cancers, and these drugs often focus on targeting the protein made by the abnormal gene and not the gene itself.


GENETIC TESTING: Researchers are collaborating to learn about genetic risks when it comes to certain cancers, more recently focusing on prostate cancer. Understanding and learning what genes are responsible for inherited prostate cancer can aid in answering what that means for men who have it, or their unaffected sons’ risk of developing prostate cancer. It may also lead to more information on cancers that can cross gender. For instance, in certain genes that lead to risk for prostate cancer in men, if a women inherits the mutation those genes may increase risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Other cancers can be tied in as well, such as pancreatic cancer or melanoma. This genetic testing has a global impact on not only the family, but may provide more information, leading to better treatment management and screening.

(Source: Dr. Veda Giri)


Gail Benner

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Veda N. Giri, MD

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