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Cancer Res. 2006 Jun 15;66(12):5993-6.

Mutagen sensitivity has high heritability: evidence from a twin study.

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Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Despite numerous studies showing that mutagen sensitivity is a cancer predisposition factor, the heritability of mutagen sensitivity has not been clearly established. In this report, we used a classic twin study design to examine the role of genetic and environmental factors on the mutagen sensitivity phenotype. Mutagen sensitivity was measured in peripheral blood lymphocytes from 460 individuals [148 pairs of monozygotic (MZ) twins, 57 pairs of dizygotic (DZ) twins, and 50 siblings]. The intraclass correlation coefficients were all significantly higher in MZ twins than in dizygotes (DZ pairs and MZ-sibling pairs combined) for sensitivity to four different mutagen challenges. Applying biometric genetic modeling, we calculated a genetic heritability of 40.7%, 48.0%, 62.5%, and 58.8% for bleomycin, benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide, gamma-radiation, and 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide sensitivity, respectively. This study provides the strongest and most direct evidence that mutagen sensitivity is highly heritable, thereby validating the use of mutagen sensitivity as a cancer susceptibility factor.

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