Fathers' Genes Could Raise Daughters' Ovarian Cancer Risk

Why elephants don't get cancer
New research indicates that fathers can pass a gene mutation to daughters, which would increase daughters' risk of ovarian cancer. More research is necessary, but the findings hold great promise for better cancer prevention.  ( PLoS Genetics )

A new gene mutation that can be passed from fathers to daughters can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, a new research suggests.

For instance, if a woman's grandmother from her father's side had ovarian cancer, the woman is also susceptible to the condition, facing higher risks if the maternal grandmother had ovarian cancer. That's because the gene mutation is reportedly transmitted through the X-chromosome and it's not tied to any other susceptibility genes that are already known and women are tested for.

Father's Genes Affect Daughter's Risk Of Ovarian Cancer

The findings of the study appeared on Feb. 15 in the PLoS Genetics journal, but additional research is necessary to confirm how this gene works.

For this study, researchers assessed 3,499 pairs of grandmothers and granddaughters from the Roswell Park Center Institute's Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry.

"The rate of cancers was 28.4% in paternal grandmother/granddaughter pairs and 13.9% in maternal pairs consistent with an X-linked dominant model (Chi-square test X2 = 0.02, p = 0.89) and inconsistent with an autosomal dominant model (X2 = 20.4, p<0.001)," note the researchers.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most widespread types of cancer in women. Women over 50, who reached menopause, face higher risks of developing the condition, but younger women can have ovarian cancer as well.

The latest research found that ovarian cancer cases tied to genes inherited from the paternal grandmother occurred at an earlier age than those linked to genes from the maternal grandmother.

Ovarian Cancer Risks

Women have two X chromosomes, one from their mother and the other from their father. Women who have a family history of cancer can currently get tests for the BRCA genes. If the tests show that they have inherited the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations, they face significantly higher risks of developing ovarian or breast cancer.

Researchers now think that other cases of ovarian cancer might actually be inherited from one's father, via the X chromosome. Lead study author Kevin Eng and his team at the Roswell Park Center Institute in Buffalo, New York, narrowed things down to one suspect gene - MAGEC3 - on the X chromosome from the father.

"What we have to do next is make sure we have the right gene by sequencing more families," says Eng. "This finding has sparked a lot of discussion within our group about how to find these X-linked families."

While further research is necessary, this study could be a notable milestone toward better ovarian cancer prevention. Women could better understand the risks of developing the condition and they could take preventative measures, which in turn could save lives. In many cases, ovarian cancer is diagnosed too late, at a stage that's more difficult to treat.

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