Loss of Y chromosome behind male smokers' increased cancer risk

A new study has revealed an association between smoking and loss of the Y chromosome in blood cells that increases the risk of developing cancer in males.

ANI| Last Updated: Dec 05, 2014, 15:21 PM IST

Washington: A new study has revealed an association between smoking and loss of the Y chromosome in blood cells that increases the risk of developing cancer in males.

Lars Forsberg, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University, and responsible for the study, said that they have now tested if there were any lifestyle- or clinical factors that could be linked to loss of the Y chromosome. Out of a large number of factors that were studied, such as age, blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol intake and smoking, they found that loss of the Y chromosome in a fraction of the blood cells was more common in smokers than in non-smokers'.

The association between smoking and loss of the Y chromosome was dose dependent, i.e. loss of the Y chromosome was more common in heavy smokers compared to moderate smokers. In addition, the association was only valid for men who were current smokers. Men who had been smoking previously, but quit, showed the same frequency of cells with loss of the Y chromosome, as men who had never smoked.

The researchers said that these results indicate that smoking can cause loss of the Y chromosome and that this process might be reversible and they found that the frequency of cells with loss of the Y chromosome was not different among ex-smokers compared to men who had never smoked. This discovery could be very persuasive for motivating smokers to quit.

The study was published in Science.