My father died from cancer of the prostate at the age of 57, over 40 years ago. I am now 61 and wonder whether there could be any implications for me, even though I'm female.

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

The great majority of cancers are not caused by inherited genes, so it is unlikely that your father's prostate cancer has any implications for your health. (And for the benefit of readers who are not very good on anatomy, women do not have prostate glands and therefore they never develop prostate cancer.) A small number of families do carry genes that increase the risk of getting certain cancers, but no prostate-cancer gene has yet been discovered and this is probably because there isn't a single gene that causes prostate cancer. Some men who carry a genetic fault in the BRCA2 gene (one of the genes that causes breast and ovarian cancer in women) have an increased risk of getting prostate cancer at a young age. But if there is no family history of breast and ovarian cancer among the women of your family, it is very unlikely that this genetic problem will be running in your family.

CancerBackup has just published a new edition of its booklet Understanding Cancer Genetics. You can order a copy through its website:; or by calling the helpline: 0808 800 1234.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.