Man's prostate cancer leads him to speak in an Irish accent

The doctors explain it as a rare case of foreign accent syndrome.
Loukia Papadopoulos
the brain and language
the brain and language


A man suffering from prostate cancer started sporting an Irish accent in what is one of the few documented reports of the condition and the first ever associated with this type of cancer. Sadly, the man ultimately passed away from his disease.

This is according to a study published late last month in BMJ Case Reports. The man was being treated for an ongoing case of metastatic prostate cancer when he suddenly began to speak with “an uncontrollable ‘Irish brogue’ accent despite no Irish background,” the researchers wrote in their report. They quickly diagnosed him with foreign accent syndrome or FAS.

A rare condition

Medical professionals have described FAS as a type of motor speech disorder. It was first witnessed by doctors in 1907. 

FAS has been documented in cases around the world, including accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.

Some common speech changes associated with FAS include fairly predictable errors, unusual prosody, including equal and excess stress, consonant substitution, deletion, distortion, and voicing errors.

It consists of a neurological dysfunction that changes a person’s natural speech patterns in such a way that those listening perceive it as an altered accent.

FAS is extremely rare, with only about 100 or so cases ever reported in the medical literature. When it does occur, it’s usually thought to be caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury. In the past, there have been a few cases of FAS caused by cancer, but these were generally due to brain tumors.

An underlying disorder

In the case of the man suffering from prostate cancer, the doctors venture a guess that the man’s accent was actually caused by an underlying paraneoplastic neurological disorder. This is a condition when damage to the brain occurs as an immune response to cancer elsewhere in the body. 

The accent came about as the cancer transformed into small cell neuroendocrine prostate cancer, an aggressive and very often ultimately fatal variant of the disease. 

Despite adequate treatment, the man’s cancer continued to spread, and metastases reached his brain leading to his death. Though FAS has been found to disappear with time as the brain recovers from assault, the man’s accent stayed until his death.

In May of 2021, an Australian woman was reported to have woken up with an Irish accent after having her tonsils removed.