Findings from the study, which involved 10,000 men with and without prostate cancer, could eventually lead to a targeted prostate cancer screening programme.
Lead researcher Dr Ros Eeles, a clinical cancer geneticist at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: ‘They will help target who really needs to come and have screening. They could help to target scarce NHS resources where they're really needed.'
Around half of all prostate cancers carry these genetic alterations, say the researchers.
Rather than be linked to an absolute increased cancer risk, the gene variants have a cumulative and synergistic effect.
These could be used to identify men most at risk of prostate cancer, who could then be targeted for annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.
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