What the BRCA Gene Means for Men and Families
Many of us have heard of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (short for BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) since they are the most well-known gene links to breast cancer. But, did you know that men have a BRCA gene, too? In recent years, researchers have been working to better understand the BRCA gene, how a mutation in the BRCA gene might play a role in a cancer diagnosis, the similarities between breast cancer and prostate cancer, and how a BRCA gene mutation might influence prostate cancer treatment.
Understanding genetics, family history, and other risk factors can be helpful in navigating a cancer diagnosis – especially in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.
The Basics of BRCA Mutations
Both men and women have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in their cells. The BRCA1 and BRCA1 genes are responsible for helping our cells repair DNA damage. If these genes are mutated, the DNA damage cannot be correctly repaired. Tests have been developed to help determine if our BRCA genes are mutated or not. The BRCA gene mutations happen in two different ways:
Germline Mutations of the BRCA Gene: Germline mutations are DNA alterations inherited from a parent – in the germ cells (sperm and egg). When a gene mutation is inherited, that means the mutation is present in every cell in the body.
Somatic Mutations of the BRCA Gene: Somatic mutations are DNA alterations that occur after conception and are not passed on to children. Somatic, or acquired, BRCA mutations are only found in the cells of the tumor.
What Does This Mean for Prostate Cancer?
Men who have a BRCA mutation are at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer than men without a BRCA mutation. A BRCA mutation may also increase a man’s risk of being diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Genetic testing is a personal decision. Speaking with your doctor and a genetic counselor is always recommended.
Additional BRCA Resources for Prostate Cancer