Scientists Identify Markers for Prostate Cancer
Tue, April 20, 2021

Scientists Identify Markers for Prostate Cancer

Scientists have identified hormones in men's blood that are linked to risks of prostate cancer, helping them move closer to reducing the occurrence of the disease / Photo by: 9nong via 123RF

 

Scientists have identified hormones in men's blood that are linked to risks of prostate cancer, helping them move closer to reducing the occurrence of the disease. The study, presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference, found that men with higher levels of free testosterone and another growth hormone in their blood are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Older age, ethnicity, and family history of the disease are some of the known factors that increase a man's risk of developing prostate cancer. But the new study is among the first to provide strong evidence that two new markers could be modified to reduce the risk of the disease.

 

Finding the Markers

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men and is a leading cause of cancer death, according to lead researcher Ruth Travis, who added there was no evidence-based advice that can be given to help men reduce the risk.

"We were interested in studying the levels of two hormones circulating in the blood because previous research suggests they could be linked with prostate cancer and because these are factors that could potentially be altered in an attempt to reduce prostate cancer risk," said Travis, who is an associate professor at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford.

Their study involved 200,452 cancer-free men who were part of the UK Biobank project and were not undergoing any hormone therapy. Blood samples were taken from the men to test for their testosterone levels and a growth hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I).

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men and is a leading cause of cancer death / Photo by: auremar via 123RF

 

A subgroup of 9,000 men provided another batch of blood samples later on. These samples would help researchers consider natural fluctuations in the men's hormone levels, reported The Independent, a Russian-owned newspaper established in 1986 as a politically independent national morning paper published in London and now provides the latest breaking news, comment, and features.

It added that the participants were monitored for six to seven years. Within the subgroup, 5,412 cases of prostate cancer emerged along with 296 deaths from the disease.

The scientists also found that the men whose free testosterone and IGF-I are higher in concentrations were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men were 9 percent more likely to develop the disease for every increase of five nanomoles in the concentration of IGF-I per liter of blood while the risk rises up to 10 percent for every increase of 50 picomoles of “free” testosterone per liter of blood.

As a whole, the analysis of the finding showed that high levels of IGF-I mean 25 percent greater risk of prostate cancer while those with the highest level of free testosterone are at 18 percent increased risk.

What the Results Say

Aside from the two hormones, the large-scale study also allowed the researchers to take other factors into account that could affect the risk of cancer, including a person's body size, socioeconomic status, and diabetes.

Although studies such as this one won't identify how these factors are linked, Travis said testosterone is known to contribute to the normal growth and function of the prostate. It is also known that IGF-I plays a role in driving the growth of the body's cells.

"What this research does tell us is that these two hormones could be a mechanism that links things like diet, lifestyle, and body size with the risk of prostate cancer," the lead researcher said in a statement. "This takes us a step closer to strategies for preventing the disease."

The researchers will need additional analysis of the findings in the study to confirm the results. They also plan to investigate further the risk factors of the most aggressive kinds of prostate cancer.

The researchers will need additional analysis of the findings in the study to confirm the results. They also plan to investigate further the risk factors of the most aggressive kinds of prostate cancer / Photo by: archnoi1 via 123RF

 

For Hashim Ahmed, chair of NCRI’s prostate group and professor of urology at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research, the study provided significant results that show there are at least several factors that can influence the risk of prostate cancer. "This study also shows the importance of carrying out very large studies, which are only possible thanks to the thousands of men who agreed to take part," he noted.

Another implication of the results is the possibility of providing men with better advice on how they can reduce their own risks of developing the disease. This is important as prostate cancer becomes one of the biggest killers among cancer types.

In 2018, 1,276,106 new cases of prostate cancer were recorded worldwide, along with 358,989 deaths (3.8 percent of all deaths caused by cancer in men). Incidences and mortality correlate with increasing age, with the average age at the time of diagnosis being 66 years, according to a study published in the World Journal of Oncology.

Tests for prostate cancer are also inaccurate and better tools are just only beginning to emerge. Currently, the detection and treatment of the disease are still haphazard and one of the few ways to prevent going through this is to reduce the risk of developing it in the first place.