December 1, 2010

Finger Length Could Indicate Prostate Cancer Risk

The length of a man's index finger could help indicate how likely he is to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study published Wednesday in the British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers from the University of Warwick and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are claiming that men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger are roughly one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer than those whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers.

The findings come following a 15-year study, conducted between 1994 and 2009, in which the researchers surveyed over 1,500 prostate cancer patients at various medical centers throughout the United Kingdom, as well as 3,000 control subjects who did not have the disease. Each man was asked to select their finger length patterns from a series of pictures, and the results showed that men who had longer index fingers were 33 percent less likely to develop the ailment.

"Our results show that relative finger length could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk, particularly in men aged under 60," Ros Eeles, co-senior author and a member of the ICT, said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

According to Eeles and her colleagues, the relative lengths of the two fingers in question are set in the womb, prior to birth, and are tied to the amount of testosterone the baby is exposed to. The longer a person's index finger, the less testosterone exposure they were subject to.

According to Kate Kelland of Reuters, Eeles believes that hormone levels "could be used in combination with other factors such as family history or genetic testing to select at-risk men for screening."

"This research brings us another step closer to helping determine risk factors for prostate cancer, which is possibly the biggest issue in current thinking about preventing and treating the disease," Prostate Action Chief Executive Emma Halls, whose organization helped fund the study, told BBC Medical Correspondent Fergus Walsh on Tuesday.

"However, we are still a long way from reducing the number of men who die of prostate cancer every year and need more research and education in all areas to achieve this," she added.


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