Certain genes significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer, particularly in the more aggressive forms of the disease. Recent research confirms that this increased risk can be greatly reduced with a good lifestyle.
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We are the result of an interaction between the genes inherited from our parents (our genetics) and all the changes these genes undergo through the way we live (our epigenetics). This gene-environment interaction affects not only our personality, but also our risk of developing most chronic diseases.
Thus, we can inherit from our parents genes that predispose to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or certain types of cancer, but these genes are very rarely sufficient to catalyze the development of these pathologies themselves.
In most cases, it is rather the combination of a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle or even certain harmful habits (smoking, excessive alcohol consumption) that allows these genes to become active and increases the risk of these diseases.
This is particularly true for complex diseases such as cancer, especially types with higher heritability such as prostate cancer.
It is estimated that about half of the variability in prostate cancer risk is due to inherited genetic factors(1). A large number of men are therefore at risk of developing this cancer, as evidenced by the presence of prostate microtumours, detected in 40% of men over 40 years of age.
On the other hand, some Asian populations (e.g. the Japanese) have an equally high incidence of microtumors in the prostate, but are still 10 times less likely to be affected by this cancer than Westerners. It therefore seems clear that, despite a genetic predisposition to developing prostate cancer, other lifestyle-related factors manage to prevent the progression of these microscopic tumors to mature cancer.
This is particularly evident from the results of an American study conducted on 12,411 men who were followed for almost 30 years(2).
In this study, the researchers determined the participants’ genetic risk through genotyping (polygenetic risk scores) and simultaneously examined their level of adherence to a healthy lifestyle by examining 4 parameters, namely weight maintenance, normal body, regular physical activity, a plant-rich diet and renunciation of smoking.
First, the results confirm that a high polygenetic risk score dramatically increases the risk of prostate cancer, with the highest scores being associated with a 5-fold increase in overall prostate cancer risk and a 4-fold risk of metastatic and fatal prostate cancer.
However, the interest of the study is to show that these risk increases are greatly reduced by good lifestyle, particularly with regard to aggressive and deadly forms of prostate cancer.
Indeed, researchers have shown that men at high genetic risk, but with the highest adherence to a healthy lifestyle, dramatically reduced their risk of prostate cancer-related mortality compared to men with unhealthy lifestyles.
In practice, this means that for men with a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer, the lifetime risk of developing fatal prostate cancer can be reduced from 5.6% to 1.6% simply by improving their lifestyle. So everything is not decided at birth and it is possible to take control of your destiny by changing your lifestyle to neutralize the negative effects of bad genes.
♦ (1) Hjelmborg JB et al. The heritability of prostate cancer in the Nordic Twin Study of Cancer. cancer epidemic. Biomarkers before. 2014; 23:2303-10.
♦ (2) Plym A et al. A healthy lifestyle in men with an increased genetic risk for prostate cancer. EUR. urol.published on May 27, 2022.