This September, Maxwell Plus Wants You To Take Some Time To Raise Awareness Of Prostate Cancer Family History With Your Loved Ones
I recently chatted with Tom White, Co-Founder of Maxwell Plus, an Australian company focused on the early and accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer. They combine AI with expert clinicians to do this. As part of September’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, I welcome them to the blog today to share a bit about prostate cancer in this guest post.
September is an excellent opportunity to raise some vital awareness with your loved ones about the importance of family history concerning prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, 1 in 6 Australian men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Roughly 3200 Australian men die from the disease each year. Sadly, the majority of these men affected had an underlying family history of the cancer. This simple but pivotal genetic trait doubled their chance of developing this terrible disease.
Having a family history of prostate cancer can pose a one in three chance of developing the disease. However, most people underestimate the impact and role of family history when managing their own risk.
Here, we will dive into the three most important things to be aware of regarding prostate cancer and family history.
First-degree relatives are the most important
First-degree relatives are most important when determining your prostate cancer family history. Not that second-degree relatives are unimportant, they just have a lower risk profile than your first-degree relatives.
If the terminology is a little confusing, don’t fret. Consider these points when defining your relatives:
- First-degree relatives are your immediate family – mother, father, siblings and children. There is a 50% chance you share the same genetics as these people.
- Second-degree relatives are your broader biological family – aunts, uncles and grandparents. There is a 25% chance you share the same genetics as these people.
A family history of cancer exists from a medical perspective if one of your biological family members has been diagnosed with that cancer. If the terminology still has your head in a spin, the below graphic should help you paint a clearer picture.
Also take note that certain cancers only impact particular genders. We know this may sound obvious for some but remember, prostate cancer can only affect your loved ones who are anatomically male and have a prostate.
Family history of prostate cancer increases the risk
A family history of prostate cancer is a significant predictor of your overall risk of developing the disease. It can increase your risk by up to 5.0x compared to the population average. Why you may ask? Well, It’s because a strong link exists between family members and developing cancers.
There are two reasons for this:
- Similar lifestyles and habits such as exposure to sunlight, smoking, drinking and diet can increase someone’s risk of developing certain cancers.
- Inherited Genetic Risk plays a crucial role in predicting the risk of cancer. This is because families pass on genes, of which some contain the code for a higher risk of developing certain cancers.
With that out of the way, let’s suppose you have one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer after they turned 55. In this case your risk would be somewhere between ~1.6x and ~1.8x that of a man with no family history. Sadly, if that same relative had developed the disease before turning 55, the risk snowballs to ~2.5x.
The overall risk continues to rise in correlation to the number of family members that have developed the disease, as you can see in the graph below.
Prostate cancer is one of the most heritable cancers because it goes beyond just prostate cancer. For instance, men can inherit higher prostate cancer risk from female family members with breast cancer (Barber et al. 2018.)
For this reason, it is vital to understand your family’s history on both sides of the family, male and female. You can do this by taking our free prostate cancer risk assessment, which takes you through all the essential questions to help classify your risk.
Start getting tested at 40
If you have a family history of prostate cancer, you should be tested from 40 years of age and continue to get tested each year. It is essential to find a doctor who has a thorough understanding of prostate cancer and ensure your other male relatives are also getting tested.
At Maxwell Plus, we recommend getting a PSA test each year from the initial test with the accepted age to stop testing being 70. Additionally, a Free-To-Total Ratio or Prostate Health Index may also be appropriate depending on the individual’s risk. We also recommend a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) completed by a highly trained and competent Urologist.
In saying that, we understand it’s hard for some people to paint a clear picture of their family history of cancer. If you fall into this category, we implore you to let your doctor know about your situation as there are avenues to identify your overall risk using a combination of medical expertise and AI technology developed by us. The below graph should also help you decipher when you should consider getting tested.
So, in the spirit of Prostate Cancer Awareness month, we strongly recommend you raise the notion of family history with your male loved ones and start getting tested.
Early detection provides the best chance of survival, so please encourage them to seek professional advice if necessary.
Maxwell Plus is always available; we can handle reminders and even co-sponsor their testing if they cannot afford the service. If you would like to refer your family members to us, you can read this article on referring your friends and family to Maxwell Plus.
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