Gene sleuths on Sunday announced they had identified more than 10 new genetic links to prostate cancer, two of which would be included in a new diagnostic test aimed at spotting men at risk from this disease.
Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer afflicting men in developed countries and heredity is known to play a key but poorly understood role in it.
Working separately, scientists gathered in three international consortia crunched through genetic data garnered from blood samples provided by thousands of volunteers.
Men with prostate cancer had a strong tendency to have telltale variants in locations on chromosomes 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 19 and the X chromosome for gender, they reported in the latest issue of Nature Genetics.
One of the group of investigators worked in Iceland, trawling over a local DNA treasure trove.
Two of the genetic variants, on the X chromosome and chromosome 2, would be included in a new lab test for prostate cancer, they said.
The new diagnostic tool, called deCODE PrCa, would look for a total of eight such signatures, said deCODE genetics, a biopharmaceutical company that is looking through the Icelandic DNA data in the search for new medical products.
Researcher Gilles Thomas, who took part in a study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), said that, individually, the genetic variants "play a low-key part" in prostate cancer, but became more dangerous when they accumulated.
"It's being able to spot several variants at one time that we can start helping people who are at high risk," he told AFP.
Men with close relatives who have had prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease as counterparts with no recent family history of this ailment.
But, until now, only a few genes have been associated with the disease, and they account for only a small percentage of potential cases.