Prostate Cancer – Understanding the Causes

The main causes for prostate cancer are not revealed by researchers until now. However, these experts have found certain risk factors and looking forward to understand how these factors result in prostate cells becoming cancerous.

At basic level, cancer of prostate is caused by DNA changes of a normal prostate cell. Technically, DNA is a chemical in human cells that makes up genes. These control the way in which cells function. No wonder children usually look like their parents. They are the actual source of children’s DNA. However, DNA affects much more than just the way people look.

Growth of cells is controlled by some of the genes. These genes help cells grow, divide, and stay alive. The genes are known as oncogenes. Other genes responsible for controlling cell growth, repair mistakes in DNA, or causing cells to die just when they need to are referred to as tumor suppressor genes.

One of the major causes of cancer can be due to DNA mutations or changes that turn oncogenes on or turn tumor suppressor genes off.

Changes in DNA may either be inherited from a parent or acquired during one’s lifetime.

Gene Mutations (Inherited)

Some gene mutations can be passed from generation to generation and are found in all cells in the body. These mutations are inherited. Inherited gene changes cause about 5% to 10% of prostate cancers. Cancer caused by inherited genes is called hereditary cancer. Several inherited mutated genes have been linked to hereditary prostate cancer, including:

RNASEL (formerly HPC1) – This is a tumor suppressor. Its standard function is to help cells die out whenever something goes wrong within them. Any inherited mutation of this gene may force abnormal cells to live longer than required. This may increase risk of prostate cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 – Also tumor suppressors, these facilitate the process of repairing errors in DNA of a cell. They may also force cell to die when the mistake cannot be fixed. Chances of ovarian or breast cancer among women increase with inherited mutations. These changes (mainly BRCA2) are also responsible for small number of prostate cancers.

DNA Mismatch Repair Genes (such as MSH2 and MLH1) – The genes usually function towards fixing errors (mismatches) in DNA created when a cell prepares to divide into two new cells. It is important for cells to produce new copies of DNA every time they divide. Inherited mutations in genes of men with Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer – HNPCC) make them vulnerable to cancers of prostate, colorectal, and many others.

HOXB13 – The gene plays a crucial part in prostate gland development. Any mutations in this gene are linked to increased likelihood of early-onset of prostate cancer running in some families. Luckily, this kind of mutation is rare.

Gene Mutations (Acquired)

Some of the gene mutations occur during an individual’s lifetime. However, these are not passed on to children. The mutations are found only in cells arising from the original mutated cell. These are referred to as ‘acquired mutations’. Many of the gene mutations linked to cancer of prostate may develop during one’s lifetime than being inherited.

Each time a cell arranges to divide into two new cells, it should copy its DNA. However, the procedure is not faultless. Errors tend to occur in some cases to leave defective DNA in newer cells.

Presently, the frequency in which these DNA changes may be random events is unclear. Also the frequency at which these get impacted by other factors such as hormone levels, diet, etc. is unclear.

In general, the faster pace at which prostate cells grows and divides the more chances for occurrence of mutations. Hence, anything that accelerates this process will increase the chances of developing prostate cancer.

For instance, male hormones known as androgens such as testosterone are responsible for promoting growth of prostate cell. Higher androgen levels might contribute to increased prostate cancer risk in some men.

According to a research, men with high levels of another hormone (insulin-like growth factor-1) or IGF-1 are more vulnerable to develop prostate cancer.

Exposure to certain cancer causing chemicals or radiation leads to DNA mutations in several organs.

The top surgeons in the world for prostate surgery combined with cancer society and researchers are working towards getting clear vision on actual causes of prostate cancer. =====================================================================

Leave a Comment