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Faulty Genes May Increase Risk of Bone Marrow Cancer by a Third

Cancer Cells

 (iStock)

A person's genes may increase their risk of developing bone marrow cancer by 30 percent, according to a British study.

Relatives of people with multiple myeloma—a type of bone marrow cancer—were known to have a twofold to fourfold increased risk of suffering the disease themselves, but until now, scientists had not identified any genes responsible.

A team of scientists led by London's Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) scanned the DNA of 1,675 patients with multiple myeloma and compared them to the genes of around 5,900 healthy people.

They found two genetic variants that were more common in people with multiple myeloma and therefore were linked to a higher chance of developing the disease, according to a paper published in the Nature Genetics journal.

Although the genes only present a 30 percent increase in cancer risk, scientists say the genes are common and believe they play a role in around 37 percent of multiple myeloma cases in Europe.

"This study is the first to confirm that some people are genetically predisposed to multiple myeloma," joint senior author Richard Houlston said. "By identifying these genetic variants, we are closer to understanding how this cancer develops. Ultimately, this could lead to improvements in diagnosis and treatment."

Senior author Gareth Morgan added, "Multiple myeloma is an aggressive cancer that sadly has poor survival rates. By learning more about the biology of multiple myeloma development, we hope to identify new drug targets—or even existing drugs—that could improve patient outcomes."

The team has started a larger study and expects to find further genetic factors.