Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the United States are that almost 240,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year, and almost 30,000 of these men will die. About 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime–would you like to know your genetic risk for getting it ahead of time?

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, after lung cancer, and about 1 man in 36 will die from it. But not everyone does: more than 2.5 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with it at some point in their lives are still alive today.

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men. Nearly two thirds are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 67.

A large group of scientists are studying the genetic causes of prostate, breast and ovarian cancer. If they detect those genes in your DNA, there may be something you can do to avoid getting the disease. It will start with a simple spit test. Such a test could identify markers for the disease that could single out men whose lifetime risk is 50%. While most men carry a small number of the genetic markers for prostate cancer, the 1% with the most genetic faults face nearly a five-fold increased risk of the disease. These men have a one in two chance of developing the disease.

In the March 27th edition of the Guardian, Ian Sample quotes cancer researcher Harpal Kumar as saying, "Hundreds if not thousands of genes are likely to play a role in how cancers start. But by understanding why some people seem to be at a greater risk, we can look towards an era where we can identify them, and take steps to reduce their chances of getting cancer, or pick up the disease in its earliest stages."

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