A research team at London’s Cancer Research centre believes the genetic screening, similar to one developed for women to detect breast cancer, could soon be offered to men.
Researchers showed 14 separate mutations, which could form the basis of the test, can greatly increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancers.
Such testing could revolutionise health care for men, with prostate cancer the most common cancer to affect men in many countries across the world.
Prostate cancer does not effect all men equally, but identifying which men require specific treatment for more aggressive and deadly forms of the disease is a big challenge.
The study looked at blood samples from close to 200 men with prostate cancer and who have three close family members with the same condition.
Each man surveyed was tested for the risky mutations – including the BRCA genes involved in repairing DNA and which are already used to identify breast and ovarian cancer risk.
Results, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that 7 per cent of the men surveyed displayed one of the 14 high-risk mutations.
These were also the men who had aggressive prostate cancer which had started to spread to other parts of the body.
Dr Zsofia Kote-Jarai, one of the study’s researchers told reporters: “I can see in two to three years offering screening to men with prostate cancer and to men worried about their family history.”
Unlike women who can opt to have their breast tissue removed if they are found to have a higher cancer risk, Kote-Jarai believes it is unlikely that men will want to opt to have their prostate removed.
“A mastectomy is removing an organ we don’t really need, and there is excellent plastic surgery afterwards. Radical prostatectomy has really big side-effects. It is more likely men will be monitored more closely,”she explained.
The side-effects include infertility, difficulty maintaining and keeping an erection, and uncontrolled urination.