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Y-chromosome loss faces men

Tuesday April 29th, 2014

Male health may be affected by loss of the Y-chromosome, researchers revealed last night.

The "tiny" chromosome is unique to men and has been thought merely to play a role in sex determination and reproduction.

But a new study by Swedish researchers suggests it may play a key role in male health.

The findings come from a study of elderly men, many of whom had lost the Y-chromosome in many of their cells.

The study of DNA in blood samples showed the loss of the chromosome in white blood cells was the most common genetic alteration.

Over several years the researchers found these men were less likely to survive than others of their age. They were also at risk of developing cancer.

The findings have been reported in Nature Genetics.

Researcher Lars Forsberg, of Uppsala University, said: “Men who had lost the Y chromosome in a large proportion of their blood cells had a lower survival, irrespective of cause of death."

Fellow researcher Professor Jan Dumanski said: "You have probably heard before that the Y chromosome is small, insignificant and contains very little genetic information. This is not true.

"Our results indicate that the Y chromosome has a role in tumour suppression and they might explain why men get cancer more often than women. We believe that analyses of the Y chromosome could in the future become a useful general marker to predict the risk for men to develop cancer."

Lars A. Forsberg et al. Mosaic loss of chromosome Y in peripheral blood is associated with shorter survival and higher risk of cancer. Nature Genetics 28 April 2014. [abstract]

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Genetics | Menís Health

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