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Cancer Res. 2019 Feb 1;79(3):461-466. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-2566. Epub 2018 Dec 3.

Mosaic Y Loss Is Moderately Associated with Solid Tumor Risk.

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Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, Bethesda, Maryland.
Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., Frederick, Maryland.
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, Bethesda, Maryland.


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 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% confidence interval (CI)low, 1.07-1.30; P low = 0.001; HRhigh = 1.36; 95% CIhigh, 1.09-1.71; P high = 0.007] and more specifically we observed an association with lung cancer (HRhigh = 2.25; 95% CIhigh, 1.36-3.71; P high = 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. SIGNIFICANCE: Evidence from the UK Biobank indicates mosaic chromosome Y loss in leukocytes is moderately associated with increased incidence of select solid tumors.

[Available on 2020-02-01]

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