Prostate cancer and blood lipids share genetic links

May 2, 2014

Numerous studies have suggested a relationship between cardiovascular disease risk factors and prostate cancer. A new study significantly refines the association, highlighting genetic risk factors associated with low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides as key players and identifying 17 related gene loci that make risk contributions to levels of these blood lipids and to prostate cancer. The findings, published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology, provide new insights into the pathobiology of prostate cancer.

The research team applied a genetic epidemiology method to assess statistics from multiple genome-wide association studies, looking for genetic overlap between the phenotypes for prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. In the case of the latter, they specifically investigated triglycerides, LDL and high density lipoprotein cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, and type 2 diabetes. The researchers also examined enrichment of single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with prostate cancer and CVD risk. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides displayed a strong association with prostate cancer.

“Risk relationships of various sorts have been proposed between prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease, although not comorbidity per se,” says co-author Ian G. Mills, PhD. “There is a lack of consistency across cohorts, however, in size and direction of effects, depending on cardiovascular risk factor considered. The significant risk association with LDL cholesterol and triglycerides versus the other traits at a genetic level was novel and unexpected.”

Mills said the identification of 17 pleiotropic loci, specific sites in the genome which may affect the expression of a number of genes and influence a range of biological pathways, provides clues to the common regulatory elements that affect expression of disease-related genes. They may be incorporated into future disease risk test panels. Read the study abstract.

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