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Cancer Res. 2018 Dec 3. pii: canres.2566.2018. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-2566. [Epub ahead of print]

Mosaic Y loss is moderately associated with solid tumor risk.

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Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute.
Cancer Genetics Research Laboratory, National Cancer Institute.
Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory, Leidos Biomedical Research, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.
Department of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute.
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health


Mosaic loss of the Y chromosome (mLOY) in peripheral leukocytes is a somatic event in which a fraction of leukocytes have lost the entire Y chromosome. The frequency of mLOY increases with age and may reflect poor genomic maintenance as well as clonal imbalances in normal immune function, making mLOY an attractive candidate marker for cancer risk. Here we investigated the relationship between mLOY and incident cancer in a large sample of 207,603 cancer-free men from the UK Biobank in which 13,895 men developed an incident solid tumor during follow-up. We identified mLOY by scanning for deviations in genotyping array log R intensity ratios (LRR) across the male-specific chromosome Y region. Overall, we detected low proportions of cells with mLOY in 3,358 (1.6%) men and high proportions of mLOY in 524 (0.3%) men. We found an association of mLOY with overall solid tumor incidence using both low and high mLOY thresholds (HRlow=1.18, 95% CIlow=1.07-1.30, P-valuelow=0.001; HRhigh=1.36, 95% CIhigh=1.09-1.71, P-valuehigh=0.007) and more specifically we observed an association with lung cancer (HRhigh=2.25, 95% CIhigh=1.36-3.71, P-valuehigh=0.002). Stronger associations were observed without adjustment for smoking, suggesting that smoking is an important confounder of tumor incidence. It is unlikely that mLOY is a major mediator of the effect of cigarette smoking on cancer risk, as mLOY was observed in only a small fraction of smokers who developed cancer. In summary, mLOY was modestly associated with incidence of solid tumors in the UK Biobank, although for some cancer subtypes these findings may reflect residual confounding by smoking.

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