By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WITH high rates of prostate cancer in the country, a cancer research group from the United States is due back in Grand Bahama today to continue ongoing research of the BRCA gene in Bahamian men and its link to the disease.
Don Mitchell, chairman of Us TOO Grand Bahama, said that a research team out of Philadelphia will conduct research on Bahamian men who have had prostate cancer.
The group will conduct training on Friday and Saturday for designated volunteers who will be assisting the team in its research.
Mr Mitchell said research participants will take a saliva test and be interviewed by the trained designated volunteers at the Quantum Physicians Facility on West Atlantic Drive on September 3-6.
"This is possibly a breakthrough area we are venturing into in Grand Bahama, and it is also going to be done in Nassau, and we will also be getting samples as well from (a doctor) in Abaco," said Mr Mitchell, a prostate cancer survivor.
"We have already discovered through this research that prostate cancer is linked to the BRCA gene and it is a distinct possibility that the gene originates in the man.
"If the father has the gene he can pass it on to his son and daughter and it will show up as prostate cancer in the son and breast cancer in the daughter.
"This research will continue for a while as you are aware research takes a long time, but I think we should applaud Dr Robin Roberts who has given very unselfishly for many years to see our Bahamian men with prostate issues free of charge, and he is taking it to another level and we are supporting him."
The Us TOO organisation, along with the Cancer Society here on the island, is conducting its annual free prostate cancer screening for men on Grand Bahama on September 7 and 8 and has planned a number of events to raise awareness of the disease.
According to US Too member Averil Mortimer, black Bahamian men have a 50 percent greater chance of developing prostate than other races and ethnic groups.
He added 17 percent - or one in six men - will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 13 percent of them will die from it.
However, if diagnosed early, prostate cancer can be 100 percent treatable.
"Death from prostate cancer is a long, painful and expensive," Mr Mortimer said.
"Our greatest problem is that many men wait too late to be tested and by that time prostate cancer has taken hold, and this results in a large number of prostate cancer deaths in the Bahamas in general, and Grand Bahama specifically."
Mr Mortimer said research in Grand Bahama began last year on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation through a saliva test.
BRCA is the acronym for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. He explained that BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumour suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of each cell's genetic material, he said.
Mr Mortimer explained that when either of these genes is mutated or altered, such that its protein product is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly.
"As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer," he said.
"Specific inherited mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 most notably increase the risk of female breast cancers, but they have also been associated with increased risks of several types of cancer."
He stated that people who have inherited mutations of BRCA1 and 2 tend to develop breast and ovarian cancers at young ages than people who do not have these mutations.
"The BRCA1 and BRCA2, normally, they help protect you from getting cancer. But when you have changes or mutations in one or both of your BRCA genes, cells are more likely to divide and change rapidly, which can lead to cancer," he said.
Mr Mortimer noted that in a paper by Dr Robin Roberts, Us TOO GB consulting urologist, the research shows that in the Bahamas for women who have breast cancer almost one out of every five (20 percent) have this defective gene.
"Our Bahamas rate of defective genes in a population per capita is the highest in the world," he said.
"Now, recent evidence suggests strongly that these breast cancer defective genes occur in men also, and may play a role in men being at greater risk to have prostate cancer.
"The evidence to supports this stem from cases in certain families where men diagnosed with advanced and aggressive prostate cancer had fathered daughters who later developed breast cancers; both the father and daughters were discovered to have the defective breast cancer gene.
"There are indications that the mother who passes the defective gene to their sons increases the chances of them being more prone to prostate cancer."