Genetic prostate cancer studies are usually based on men of European ancestry and often fail to include men of other ancestries. The Million Veterans Study has helped to create a scoring algorithm that can measure the risk of dying of prostate cancer from an even larger and more diverse pool of military veterans.
Prostate cancer screening recommendations are typically based on family history and race and ethnicity, but these factors do not fully capture a person’s risk of developing the disease. Screening for prostate cancer includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, but there has been uncertainty in the test’s accuracy and its ability to predict the risk of developing aggressive forms of prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 34,500 men will die of prostate cancer in 2022, and about 268,490 new cases will be diagnosed.
The Million Veterans Study was conducted by the Million Veteran Program, a national research program dedicated to discovering how genes, lifestyle, and military service affect the health of veterans. The program began in 2011 and has since partnered with over 870,000 veterans.
“Compared to other tests of risk, the scoring algorithm uses nearly 300 variants to inherited genetic information, whereas some currently available commercial tests rely on expression of just a dozen or so cancer-related genes and a handful of reference genes,” said lead author study Meghana Pagadala.
The study has been ongoing since 2011 and is comprised of people who have received medical care at facilities that are part of the Veterans Administration Health Care System. Out of 600,000 men who enrolled in the study, researchers were able to obtain clinical information from 97% of the study group. All men in the group consented to genotyping via blood samples, and the median age of the group was 69.
The study found that men with African ancestry have a 1.84 times greater risk of developing prostate cancer when compared to men of European ancestry. There was also a 2.27 times greater risk of disease metastasis and a 1.97 times greater risk of death. Prostate cancer risk in men with Hispanic ancestry was similar to men with European ancestry. Data was compiled on men with Asian ancestry; However, the analysis number was too small to come to a reliable conclusion.
Researchers that took part in the Million Veterans Study hope to identify more ancestry-specific prostate cancer risk variants over time to better understand how ancestry can play a vital role in prostate cancer risk. The team is also planning to study the interaction of genetic risk and environmental factors and their impact on prostate cancer diagnosis.
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