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The Link Between Breast and Prostate Cancer

Breast and prostate cancers would seem to be unrelated. Different anatomy, different functions. However, both are known to be affected by hormones. Estrogen can stimulate breast cancer growth and androgens can stimulate prostate cancer.

Now a study indicates that family medical histories link the two cancers. The study, published in March 2015 in the journal Cancer, investigated whether a woman’s risk of breast cancer was related to a family history of prostate cancer.

Using data from more than 78 thousand women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (1993-1998), the study showed that a woman’s risk of breast cancer increased 14% if she had an immediate family history of prostate cancer. Her risk of breast cancer was increased 78% if she had both breast and prostate cancer in her immediate family history. This connection could be genetic or it could environmental. There can also be random clusters of cancer. 

These findings confirm the importance of providing your doctor with a full family history. Lead researcher Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, an associate professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, emphasized that this information is critical for guiding medical decisions including screening for breast and prostate cancers.