Show Details

Sons and Prostate Cancer

February 28, 2007

Is there a link between prostate cancer and lacking male children?


A new clue to the roots of prostate cancer. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

One possible cause of prostate cancer may be a damaged Y chromosome: the same chromosome that makes a person male rather than female. Now, a study led by Susan Harlap of Columbia University’s School of Public Health has found new support for that theory. Among thirty-nine thousand Israeli fathers, they found that prostate cancer was 40 percent more common among men with no sons, than among men with at least one son. Harlap says this fits the Y chromosome hypothesis.

SUSAN HARLAP (Columbia University):
On theoretical grounds, if a man has a damaged Y chromosome he might be much less likely to have boys.

In other words, the genetic defect might increase prostate cancer risk and make it harder to father male children. But Harlap emphasizes that such a defect has yet to be found, and that the sex of a man’s children is usually just luck of the draw. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.