Genetic Testing for Cancer Gene Mutations in Men
As a genetic counselor at JScreen, I will often hear my male patients express concern for their partners, daughters, mothers, and sisters, without realizing how it may affect them. One of the most common misconceptions about genetic testing for cancer is that it’s only a test for women. So let’s take a minute to expose and debunk some of these myths.
Should Men Get Tested For Cancer Genes?
Short answer? Yes. Genetic testing for cancer genes is just as important for men as it is for women. In fact, men and women are equally as likely to carry a mutation in a cancer gene. If a parent carries a genetic mutation, each of their children (male or female) has a 50% chance of inheriting it, regardless of sex. This applies to all cancer genes, even those having to do with gynecological cancers.
What Types Of Cancers Are Associated With Cancer Genes?
Even though some cancer genes are known to be associated with a specific cancer type, many of them are actually related to more than one type of cancer. For example, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are often referred to as “breast cancer genes” because the risk for breast cancer is significantly increased in female carriers. In reality, mutations in these genes also increase the risks for ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and skin cancers. Knowing one’s carrier status can significantly impact their medical management and cancer screenings beyond breast cancer.
And while we’re on the topic of BRCA: Men who carry a mutation can develop breast cancer too. In fact, a male with a BRCA2 mutation has a 7-8% risk for breast cancer in their lifetime which is about 8 times higher than average. While a breast cancer diagnosis in a male is less common than in women, early detection is key and men should be aware of the signs of symptoms of breast cancer. And for those men who never have a cancer diagnosis, they can still pass on their mutation to their sons and daughters who may be at-risk. Knowing whether they carry a mutation can be informative and life-saving to their children and other relatives.
How Can You Test For Cancer Genes?
Did you know that there are many other hereditary cancer genes aside from BRCA1/2? In fact, JScreen’s CancerGEN test analyzes 73 cancer-predisposition genes, which are associated with more than 40 different types of cancer such as colon, prostate, kidney, stomach, thyroid, and pancreatic. Some of these cancers are sex-specific, but many can affect anyone.
If you learn you have a mutation in a cancer gene, there are many ways to maintain your health and to impact the health of your family. These include increased screenings, preventive surgery, lifestyle modifications, learning about options to avoid passing mutations on to the next generation, and informing relatives who may be at-risk. So what are you waiting for? Genetic testing could save your life or the life of someone you love.
Learn more about cancer genetic testing at jscreen.org/cancer-genetic-screening-service.
Emily Goldberg, MS, CGC