New genetic explanation found for higher risk of cancer in men

24 November 2016

Scientists have identified a potential genetic explanation for the fact that men are generally more susceptible to cancer than women.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute research has indicated that women carry an extra copy of certain protective genes in their cells, providing additional defence against out-of-control cell growth.

With National Cancer Institute data showing that males carry about a 20 percent higher risk than females of developing cancer, the study indicated that a tumour-suppressing gene called KDM6A, located on the X chromosome, may have a key role to play.

Females have two X chromosomes and male cells carry only one, meaning women in effect have a backup copy of the gene in case a mutation occurs in one of them. It was also shown that KDM6A mutations can be detected more often in male cancers.

This phenomenon is not wholly responsible for the greater risk of cancer in males, but could account for up to 80 percent of the excess male cases in some tumour types.

Dr Andrew Lane of Dana-Farber, co-senior author of the study, said: "The protection afforded by the working copies of these genes in female cells may help explain the lower incidence of many cancers in women and girls."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

 


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