An association between the natural loss of the Y chromosome (LOY) in the blood cells of older men and a higher rate of cancer is reported in a paper published online this week in Nature Genetics. The findings suggest that blood tests for LOY could be used as a predictive tool for cancer risk.
Men are at a higher risk of non-sex-specific cancers than women, but the reason for this is not known. Lars Forsberg and colleagues studied DNA from the blood of over 1600 elderly Swedish men for possible genetic causes. LOY in a proportion of blood cells is common as men age, but they found that men who had higher proportions of LOY had an increased risk of cancer and, on average, died 5.5 years earlier than men with lower LOY levels. The results were validated in a group of slightly younger men.