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The Underlying Genetic Links between Cancers

By March 5, 2019No Comments

Getting sick is a bit of a game of chance: brushing by the wrong person, skimming a dirty table, grabbing the wrong towel at the gym. However, it is not as much of a dice roll as many believe. An individual’s lifestyle and habits play a role, and so do genetics. While all human beings share 99.9 percent of their DNA with everyone else on the planet, differences in the remaining 0.1 percent play a large role in determining someone’s outward characteristics and their susceptibility to disease.

A team of researchers from around the world, including some from the UW, recently published a study in Nature Communications that sought to determine if there are genetic relationships between six types of cancer: breast, colorectal, head/neck, lung, ovary, and prostate cancer. In addition, the team hoped to learn more about the role an individual’s genes play in their susceptibility to the disease while controlling for non-cancer traits.

The researchers found that there were significant genetic correlations between lung and head and neck cancer. They also determined the breast and ovarian cancers share BRCA1/2 mutations, and they observed a link between breast and colorectal cancer. Surprisingly, there was not a correlation between ovarian and prostate cancer.