Thousands of Barbadian men as young as 40 have a specific DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule gene that predisposes them to the development of prostate cancer.
This major discovery came out of a recent trial undertaken by the Barbados Cancer Society in conjunction with top researchers from the United States.
The presence of the molecule is most common in families and is considered a genetic disease, the study determined.
Some 565 over-40 men consented to the trial which started in April 2020 and ended in April 2022. From that testing, it was determined that 76 of the participants would develop prostate cancer in the future.
This was disclosed by the society’s president Professor R. David Rosin during a press conference held on Tuesday at the headquarters on Lower Collymore Rock, St Michael.
He said the trial was conducted with the support of Emeritus Professor of Surgery at Yale University Irvin Modlin and Laboratory and Scientific Director at Wren Laboratories Mark Kidd. It was the largest trial in the world for screening prostate cancer in men of African descent using genomics.
Rosin explained that genomics is a relatively new approach to discovering diseases using specific findings in the blood and saliva.
“Prostatic cancer has the highest cancer numbers in Barbados. It’s number one. One hundred and fifteen men a year die from the disease and 320 men, in the last statistics in 2018, actually get the disease,” he said. “Prostate cancer is usually a slow growing cancer in men over the age of 65 with a low death rate compared to most other cancers, however, in men of African descent it occurs in younger men and tends to be more aggressive.”
Rosin said that by using genomics, men could now learn if they are predisposed to prostate cancer even before the cancer presents itself in the body.
“The trial has shown that men as young as 40 can be carrying this molecule signature, almost always because their father or their grandfather, close relatives, have suffered from the disease . . . It is most common in families and is a genetic disease. We have shown that men who have a positive PROSTest, the molecule signature, have a normal PSA (prostate-specific antigen), no symptoms, no signs and [no] readings on the screens.
“So we are finding people who are carrying this gene and who we know will ultimately develop prostate cancer.”
The cancer society head noted that generally, men 60 and over are usually screened for prostate cancer and the society accepts men 50 and over.
However, he said that based on the findings of the research, men as young as 40 should get screened.
“I think this trial has proved that we are going to have to lower the bar and start screening people from the age of 40.”
Given that the number of men with prostate cancer is increasing every ten years, Rosin called on males to get tested.
“We should be alarmed that it is too strong and I think we should be vigilant as to how we are going to investigate and treat these men. Screening of all cancers is the way forward…
“We should be screening people to ensure that we find the disease as early as possible. That is going to decrease the mortality and morbidity because of less aggressive treatment.”
While those in the trial were tested free of cost, the price tag on the DNA molecule test is US$500.
Rosin said any males wanting to get the test done could visit the society, pay the required sum and the organisation would facilitate it. The tests are only conducted at Wren Laboratories.
Rosin told the press conference, the society would soon be carrying out another trial for colon cancer, which will test 600 volunteers.
Colon cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in Barbados and it affects both men and women.
The third most prevalent cancer is breast cancer.