More genetic variants associated with prostate cancer

Two new papers published on line in Nature Genetics have added a total of nine more genetic variants to the number of variants associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer.

Al Olama et al. have identified “multiple loci on 8q24 associated with prostate cancer risk” based on a comparison of the genetic material of 5,504 prostate cancer patients and 5,834 controls. Yeager et al. have added to this information by identifying another variant on the 8q24 locus.

A story published in The Daily Mail (a British national newspaper) gives more information in something approaching plain English!

Clearly, there is something significant about the 8q24 area of our DNA and prostate cancer. But — as we have written often before — an “association” between the occurrence of prostate cancer and a variation in a specific area of the DNA does not necessarily mean that that change in the DNA causes the prostate cancer. Indeed, so many genetic variants have been associated with prostate cancer now, that we have to assume that in many cases the change in the DNA may be an effect of the cancer rather than a cause!

Is it possible that some of these genetic changes may be causative and that others are effects of the cancer? Absolutely yes, it is indeed! But it may take a great deal more work to tease out even one of these cause and effect relationships.

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