The study, by scientists at 13 research centers, found that mutations in a gene known as EphB2 occurred in 15 percent of African-American men with a strong family history of prostate cancer. The mutation was found in only 5 percent of African-American men with no family or personal history of the disease and in less than 2 percent of European-American men with no history of the disease.
Prostate cancer rates are extremely high in African-American men. They develop the disease 60 percent more often than do European Americans, and they are almost two and half times more likely to die of the disease.
Until now, no gene mutations have been identified that contribute to hereditary prostate cancer and prostate-cancer susceptibility specifically in African-American men.
The findings are published online in the Sept. 9, 2005, issue of the Journal of Medical Genetics.
"This is the first gene mutation to be associated with familial prostate cancer in African-American men," says first author Rick A. Kittles, associate professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and a researcher with the Human Cancer Genetics program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
"Next, we must learn more about how this mutation contributes to cancer, and we must screen for the mutation in a much larger group of African-American men with prostate cancer to verify its association with the disease."
Then, says Kittles, a specialist in prostate-cancer genetics in African Americans, "perhaps we can begin using this mutation to help estimate prostate-cancer risk in African-American men."