Research Reveals Risk of Impotence After Prostate Cancer Based on DNA

By Emily Murray

For a man diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are many things running through his mind. First comes the decision of how to treat it and then inevitably the thought of potential side effects caused by the proposed treatment come to mind.

Fortunately, when caught early enough, prostate cancer is treatable in many cases but the after affects of treatment can be devastating for many men and can include rectal damage, erectile dysfunction or even incontinence.

New research has found that when it comes to suffering from erectile dysfunction and other side effects post-treatment, certain DNA markers may be able to show the likelihood of a man developing this side effect and when identifies prior to treatment they can make the decision much easier about the best way to proceed.

This research was recently released in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology. This breakthrough finding may make it easier for a doctor to advise the best type of treatment for the man individually since there will be some sort of indicator about how his body will react. In some cases, this may steer the doctor to opt for surgery rather than radiation treatment.

The Study

In order to find this potentially life changing information, researchers studied a group of 841 men who were being treated with radiation for their prostate cancer. For five years the patients were tested sometime every 3 to 6 months to test their sexual function. The results yielded the following information – 260 patients with erectile dysfunction and 205 controls.

Once this information was gathered the scientists looked a bit further and studied the DNA of each of the men. They were looking specifically for genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and found 12 genetic variations  that they believed made men more susceptible to ED.

In men with just one of these variations, researchers found that they were twice as likely to suffer complications form radiation therapy.

While this research is still relatively new, it does give a glimmer of hope for cancer treatment in the future. Hopefully this will make it easier for doctors to recommend either surgery or radiation based on the chance that the patient will have an adverse reaction the the radiation treatment.