Magazine article Science News

Y Chromosome Linked to Cancer: Chromosome Loss in Blood Cells May Cut Men's Life Span

Magazine article Science News

Y Chromosome Linked to Cancer: Chromosome Loss in Blood Cells May Cut Men's Life Span

Article excerpt

Losing the Y chromosome in blood cells may bring on cancer and shorten men's lives, new research suggests. By age 70, about 15 percent of men have lost the Y chromosome from a proportion of their blood cells, statistician and bioinformaticist Lars Forsberg of Uppsala University in Sweden reported October 21.

Forsberg and his colleagues made the discovery by examining the DNA of more than 6,000 middle-aged and elderly Swedish men.

In June, Forsberg's team reported linking Y chromosome loss to a higher risk of several types of cancer and a decreased life span in a smaller group of men. Men who have lost the Y chromosome in at least 10 percent of their blood cells have an average life expectancy of 5.5 years, while men who keep their Y's live around twice as long. The older a man gets, the more of his blood cells lack a Y chromosome, the researchers found.

The loss may weaken immune cells, including white blood cells, making it harder to fight off cancer, Forsberg said.

The researchers think that Y chromo some loss may start sometime around age 40 but doesn't become detectable until 5 to 10 percent of blood cells are missing the chromosome. Y chromosomes are probably lost when cells divide, with some cells failing to divvy up their chromosomes equally. The team is still investigating what might trigger the process in middle age.

A separate study of more than 8,500 men with cancer and more than 5,300 healthy men also found that Y chromosome loss increases with age. …

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