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A gene called HNF1B has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men. Now, scientists have discovered that it also reduces a woman’s risk of uterine cancer.
Women with the gene have a 15-18 percent less chance of getting uterine cancer than other women and men have less chance of getting prostate cancer.
The researchers scanned the genomes of 1,265 uterine cancer patients and a 5,190 women without cancer. They found 47 one-letter alterations in the genetic code where genes for uterine cancer were most likely to be found and then looked at those specific regions in a further 3,957 cancer patients and 6,886 without the disease. This left three one-letter alterations that were significantly linked to a decreased risk of cancer, all of which overlapped with the HNF1B gene on chromosome 17.
Lead author Professor Douglas Easton said, “This study is the first to highlight a potential link between womb cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, providing new insight into the underlying genes and mechanisms that lead to the development of both diseases.
“Understanding how these influence a person’s risk of developing cancer is a crucial step in being able to identify high risk groups who may benefit from closer monitoring or measures to reduce their risk of developing the disease.”
Dr. Lesley Walker, from Cancer Research UK, added, “This is only the second common genetic region to have been linked to the development of womb cancer.
With faster, cheaper genome technologies now becoming available, we are on the cusp of being able to carry out powerful genome studies involving much larger groups of people. This will allow scientists to pinpoint subtler associations helping to build a more complete picture of how genes influence a person’s risk of developing womb cancer. Ultimately this will pave the way for more targeted approaches to treating and diagnosing the disease.”
However, the study was part-funded by the Wellcome Trust who may stand to benefit if they are the ones who will be developing screening tests or new gene therapies.
Cancer Research UK, 18th April 2011.