Can prostate cancer early screening be effective? Watch as expert Dr. Yaw Nyame from the University of Washington shares information about those who are at higher risk of prostate cancer and recommended ages to start screening in these higher-risk groups for proactive care.
What screening test or risk-reducing care would you suggest for men who have a family history of prostate cancer, and at what age should screening begin for specific populations?
Unfortunately, there is no data, rigorous data to help answer this question, but we know that men that have a high risk of developing prostate cancer benefit from earlier testing with PSA. We know this from a variety of studies, including some modeling studies, which we have done here at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center at the University of Washington. When I talk about high-risk groups, it really falls into two categories, men who have a strong family history and a strong family history means a first-degree relative, father, brother, grandfather that has prostate cancer.
But when we look at the genetics of prostate cancer it’s not just about prostate cancer itself, what we have found is that things that lead to family histories of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer also increase your risk of prostate cancer, for instance, the BRCA gene, which is a breast cancer gene is associated with a marked increased risk of prostate cancer. So, knowing your family history matters and knowing it beyond prostate cancer is important. The other high-risk group as men of African descent or ancestry, we know our Black men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, it’s about a one in six or one in seven risk compared to one in nine in the general population. So, the recommendation I make for these two groups is to consider screening earlier and to do it more frequently. On average, PSA screening happens for men between the ages of 55 and 70 or 74, and it’s usually every two years, if you look at the population level data, I would suggest that you consider screening at age 45 or 40 and doing it every year, however, you’ve got to turn the screening off at some point. So, if your PSA stays low and is non-concerning into your early 70s, then I think you can be reassured that your risk of having a fatal or aggressive cancer is low, and you could safely stop screening.
So for someone who has a first-degree relative such as a father who had prostate cancer and maybe even an aggressive form of prostate cancer, it will be important for them to get screened at 40 to start at least having a baseline number to be able to watch it?
Absolutely. The baseline number is really a topic of discussion in the urologic community because we know that if you get a PSA at age 40 and it’s above one or above the median for your age group, that you’re at a lifetime risk of having what we call significant cancer, so that’s a cancer that might have the potential to be fatal in your lifetime is higher. And so theoretically, you could get that one-time PSA at 40 and use that as a basis for how intense your screening practice would be. I’ve talked about PSA testing, but screening also involves the digital rectal exam, and it’s important that men understand that both those things together is what leads to a thorough and good clinical evaluation, when it comes to prostate cancer risk.