Mutant gene link to cancer

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The Independent Online
MEN WHO carry a mutant version of a breast cancer gene are up to five times more likely to get prostate cancer, according to new research.

The study, conducted by doctors from the Cancer Research Campaign's genetic epidemiology unit in Cambridge, has found that men who carry a damaged version of the BRCA2 gene, known for its strong link with developing breast cancer in women, are more prone to developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the second-biggest cancer killer in men after lung cancer. In 1995 there were 18,690 cases in men. In 1996, 9,700 died of it.

The research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that men and women who carried the faulty gene also had greater risk of developing cancers of the pancreas, gall bladder, mouth, throat, stomach and skin.

In the biggest study undertaken of faulty BRCA2 carriers and their families, scientists found that men who carried the gene had a one-in-nine chance of developing cancer compared with one in 50 on average for men.

Previous research has shown that women who inherit the mutated BRCA2 gene have a 70 per cent chance of breast cancer and a 20 per cent chance of ovarian cancer by the age of 70.

Dr Douglas Easton, who led the research, said the link between BRCA2 and how cancers started would offer scientists other ways of looking at how to treat cancers. "The fact that it is linked to pancreatic cancer is a very exciting find for researchers, although a worrying one for carriers. Pancreatic cancer is very hard to treat and any discovery which opens up new lines of attack gives hope."

The study involved 173 families in America and Europe, and the medical records of 4,778 people were analysed.

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