Numerous studies have shown that men are more susceptible to cancer than women; however, the reason for this difference remains poorly understood.
In a new study, researchers have identified a key biological mechanism that puts men at higher risk of cancer: loss of function in certain genes of the sex-determining Y chromosome.
The research was conducted by a team from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and elsewhere.
Recent studies have shown that complete loss of the Y chromosome, which is essential to fetal sex differentiation, occurs, with aging, in the cells of some men.
Although the loss of the Y chromosome has previously been linked to a higher incidence of cancer, the causes of this association are poorly understood
Using data from 9,000 individuals, the researchers studied Y-chromosome gene function in patients with various types of cancer.
They found that cancer risk increases with loss of function of six key Y-chromosome genes in various types of cells.
These six Y-chromosome genes are involved in cell-cycle regulation, the failure of which can lead to tumor development.
Understanding the biological differences between men and women in cancer is crucial for the development of personalized lines of treatment and prevention.
In addition, identifying the factors that make men more vulnerable to cancer is an important line of research that has the potential to mitigate risk in this population.
Although men may be more exposed to carcinogens due to the type of work they do and at higher risk because they are less likely to consult a doctor, this study has shown that there are also biological factors that increase cancer risk among men.
In fact, it seems that one of these factors can be found in the Y chromosome, the very essence of maleness.
The team says certain environmental exposures, for example, to tobacco or other harmful substances, could affect chromosome function and lead to epigenetic modifications.
The findings open the door for the development of targeted detection methods and specific therapies for men with cancer.
One author of the study is Juan Ramón González, the head of the Bioinformatic Group in Genetic Epidemiology at ISGlobal.
The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
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