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Finger length points to prostate cancer risk
By Dross at 2010-12-01 23:39
Finger length points to prostate cancer risk

 

Men who have long index fingers are at lower risk of prostate cancer, a new study published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found.

The study led by The University of Warwick and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger were one third less likely to develop the disease than men with the opposite finger length pattern.

“Our results show that relative finger length could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk, particularly in men aged under 60,” Joint senior author Professor Ros Eeles from the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust says. “This exciting finding means that finger pattern could potentially be used to select at-risk men for ongoing screening, perhaps in combination with other factors such as family history or genetic testing.”

Over a 15 year period from 1994 to 2009, the researchers quizzed more than 1,500 prostate cancer patients at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and Surrey, Nottingham City Hospital and The Royal Hallamshire Hospitals in Sheffield, along with more than 3,000 healthy control cases. The men were shown a series of pictures of different finger length patterns and asked to identify the one most similar to their own right hand.

The most common finger length pattern, seen in more than half the men in the study, was a shorter index than ring finger. Men whose index and ring fingers were the same length (about 19 per cent) had a similar prostate cancer risk, but men whose index fingers were longer than their ring finger were 33 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer. Risk reduction was even greater in men aged under 60 years– these men were 87 per cent less likely to be in the prostate cancer group.

The relative length of index and ring fingers is set before birth, and is thought to relate to the levels of sex hormones the baby is exposed to in the womb. Less testosterone equates to a longer index finger; the researchers now believe that being exposed to less testosterone before birth helps protect against prostate cancer later in life. The phenomenon is thought to occur because the genes HOXA and HOXD control both finger length and development of sex organs.

Previous studies have found a link between exposure to hormones while in the womb and the development of other diseases, including breast cancer (linked to higher prenatal oestrogen exposure) and osteoarthritis (linked to having an index finger shorter than ring finger).

Joint senior author, Professor Ken Muir, says:  “Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb which can have an effect decades later. As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the make-up of the disease.”

The study was funded by Prostate Cancer Research Foundation and Cancer Research UK.

 

 



1 comment | 2132 reads

by gdpawel on Mon, 2010-12-06 06:05
The study presumes that anyone would need regular screening for prostate cancer, something for which the US Preventive Services Task Force concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years.

The American Cancer Society states: "Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment."

How reliable is questioning men and showing them pictures of different finger length patterns and then asking them to identify the one most similar to their own? Previous studies have linked finger length to aggression, fertility, sporting ability and confidence and reaction times. The journal article does mention that there's been other research - the Korean Cohort study - on the question of finger length and prostate cancer riske.

A study in the United States last year found routine prostate cancer screening had resulted in more than one million men being diagnosed with tumors who might otherwise have suffered no ill effects from them, resulting in anxiety, unnecessary followup testing and possible subsequent treatment carrying its own risks and costs.

This observational study cannot establish that hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb can have an effect decades later.

[url]http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_106188.html

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