New Test May Offer Genetic Screening for Prostate Cancer Risk; Concord Hospital Expert Optimistic

CONCORD , N.H. , Feb. 6, 2008 – A new study has been published regarding a test that identifies gene combinations which may indicate a man’s risk for prostate cancer. Recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study was led by doctors at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, M.D., and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and involved 2,893 men with prostate cancer and 1,781 men who did not have the disease. The results showed evidence that combinations of genes are predictive of developing the disease. In particular, when four or five gene variants were present, the men were four times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who had none of the genes present. Family history further compounds that possibility, making men with five of the six possible variants more than nine times more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Dr. William Santis of Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care, a fully integrated urologic center with a specialized program in Prostate and Urologic Oncology, recently commented on the study. “By determining the presence or absence of five specific gene variants, one can determine to what extent a man is at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. These men then could then be screened more aggressively for early detection of the disease, and potentially focus on lifestyle changes that decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer,” said Santis.

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate, the male sexual gland located below the bladder, when abnormal cells grow out of control. It is the most prevalent form of cancer in American men and the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Experts estimate that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer; however, when detected in its early stages, the overwhelming majority of men survive the disease.

Currently, routine prostate screening involves a simple digital rectal exam and prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. “Screening is typically painless and takes no longer than a standard office visit would, and has been shown to be helpful in finding cancer in earlier stages, when local treatment is more effective,” said Santis. “This research will produce a laboratory test which may help physicians target which men are at higher risk and should be followed more closely .”

Until a more advanced test based on the Swedish study becomes available, Santis encourages men to talk with their families about any history of prostate cancer. If they have not done so already, men who are 50 or older, African-American, or the son or brother of someone who has had prostate cancer should discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their primary care physicians.

About Concord Hospital

Concord Hospital is a nationally accredited, regional medical center that provides comprehensive acute-care services and programs to people throughout New Hampshire. The Hospital offers 40 medical specialties and subspecialties, including its cornerstone centers of excellence in orthopaedics, cancer, cardiac, urology, and women’s health. Concord Hospital, along with innovative technology and exceptionally trained clinicians, ensures high quality patient care and safety. Additionally, Concord Hospital and its subsidiaries nationally recognized for cardiovascular, stroke and diabetes medical care, offers a network of primary and specialty care physicians throughout Concord and its surrounding communities. In 2007, the charitable, not-for-profit organization provided more than $31 million in community benefits to the residents of Central New Hampshire. For more information, visit