If you have several male relatives who developed prostate cancer, or one who got it before age 55, you may be carrying a gene that may give you prostate cancer before you're 55, researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital have found.
If you did inherit the gene, there's an 88 percent chance you'll have prostate cancer before age 85, the scientists say, and they strongly recommend that you seek annual screening for prostate cancer beginning at age 40.
Researchers at Hopkins' Brady Urological Institute say genetic testing cannot yet identify the responsible gene.
"But we found strong evidence that the gene exists," said Dr. Bob S. Carter, one of the authors of the study, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The genetic factor was discovered through a statistical analysis of the family medical histories of 691 men whose relatives had developed prostate cancer. The results pointed strongly to the existence of a cancer gene inherited from either parent.
While 88 percent of men who carry the gene get prostate cancer by age 85, only 5 percent of those without the gene get the cancer.
The gene is believed responsible for only 9 percent of all cases of prostate cancers, but nearly half of all those that begin before age 55.