Genes Account for Half the Risk of Testicular Cancer
According to new research, almost half the risk of developing testicular cancer comes from the DNA passed down from our parents. Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), along with colleagues in Europe and the US, say that genes play a more important role in testicular cancer risk than in risk of any other type of cancer.
The researchers explored the history of testicular cancer in families using a Swedish database which included 9,324 cases of the disease. They then looked at the genetic code of almost 6,000 UK men from two previous testicular cancer studies, 986 of whom had been diagnosed with the disease.
The combined analysis revealed that 49% of all possible factors contributing to testicular cancer risk are inherited. In other types of cancer, genetics typically account for less than 20% of risk.
The study showed that the genetic risk is the result of many minor variations in the genetic code, rather than one faulty gene. The researchers hope that these findings are a step towards an effective screening programme for men with a family history of the disease.
“Our study has shown that testicular cancer is a strongly heritable disease,” says Dr Clare Turnbull, senior researcher in genetics and epidemiology at the ICR. “Around half of a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer comes from the genes he inherits from his parents – with environmental and behavioural factors contributing to the other half. Our findings have important implications in that they show that if we can discover these genetic causes, screening of men with a family history of testicular cancer could help to diagnose those at greater risk.”
However, she adds that there is much more work to be done if the genetic causes of testicular cancer are to be better understood. “There are a lot of genetic factors that cause testicular cancer which we are yet to find, so the first step must be to identify the genetic drivers of testicular cancer so we can develop new ways to prevent it.”