Men whose prostate cancer has spread to other parts of the body should consider getting genetic testing, findings of a new study have revealed.

In a new research, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on June 6, researchers involved 692 men with advanced prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of their body to take a look at 20 genes that are involved in DNA repair.

Study researcher Peter Nelson, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and colleagues found that men with metastatic prostate cancer are five times more likely to harbor inherited mutations in these genes compared with the general population regardless of age and family history of prostate cancer.

The mutations also occur more often in patients with the advanced form of the disease compared with those whose prostate cancer has not spread.

"In our multicenter study, the incidence of germline mutations in genes mediating DNA-repair processes among men with metastatic prostate cancer was 11.8%, which was significantly higher than the incidence among men with localized prostate cancer," Nelson and colleagues wrote in their study.

The researchers likewise found that three quarters of these patients had first-degree relatives who have cancers besides prostate cancer. These relatives were found to have pancreatic, ovarian and breast cancers, gastrointestinal malignancies as well as lymphoma and leukemia.

The findings suggest that genetic screening for mutations in genes that keep the DNA error-free may benefit men with prostate cancer as screening for mutations in DNA-repair genes may help them get better treatments and alert their family members of their own cancer risks.

There are anti-cancer drugs that target some of the mutations that the researchers have identified, which suggests that findings of genetic screening may steer patients into getting the most effective treatments earlier.

Since the mutations are present in the inherited cells and not just in the tumor cells, results of genetic testing can alert family members who may share the same mutations. This could lead to preventive measures against the disease. Family members may also be offered testing.

"There are preventative and risk reduction options that may be relevant for family members which they should consider if also carrying the same pathogenic germline mutation," said study researcher Michael Walsh, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

"We are now at a point where we have specific therapies that we can offer people with heritable DNA repair mutations."

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