The study of a specific part of the male DNA makes it possible to refine the interpretation of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, which could reduce the risk of men being treated for prostate cancer unnecessarily.
A PSA test measures the level of the antigen in the blood, and raised PSA can signal an increased risk of cancer; however, this is not the case for everyone. The problem is that there is no reliable way to separate those with naturally high levels of PSA from those at increased risk of prostate cancer.
A study conducted at Lund University (Sweden) shows how a man''s genetic characteristics can affect the androgen receptor, a protein that has an important function in the male reproductive system. It regulates the effect of testosterone and controls production of prostate-specific antigen. The study is based on samples from around 400 men from Sweden and Norway.
The scientists studied healthy men in different age groups and discovered a connection between PSA levels in the blood and DNA structure of the androgen receptor. The highest PSA levels were found in the men with the most common variant of the androgen receptor that was within the largest group of men.
Christel Björk, PhD, a doctoral student at the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University, said, “If we know that a man has a naturally high level of PSA, this can be taken into account in a PSA test, and the patient may be able to avoid arduous treatment with a risk of side-effects." Both the PSA level and the genetic characteristics can be identified with a blood test. Before the results can be implemented for PSA tests in the health service, the study must be repeated on a larger group.