According to investigators at the University of Edinburgh, individuals who carry specific genes, including some accountable for Parkinson's disease, some cancers and heart disease, may be at risk of developing other health problems. Although researchers have long suspected that different diseases are genetically associated, to date there has been insufficient systematic evidence to prove it. The study is published online in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

The researchers discovered that the genes responsible for Crohn's disease are connected with other conditions, such as:
  • Obesity
  • Breast Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • High Cholesterol
  • and Hodgkin's lymphoma
Understanding how diseases are genetically linked may help researchers develop new medicines and could help predict and avoid potential adverse effects.

In addition, the study reveals that new genetic links between genes associated with certain fats might reduce the risk of gallstones and lower cholesterol.

Dr Evropi Theodoratou of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences explained:

"Showing that genes are linked to more than one disease is very important. We have shown that this is a common finding and not just an exception.

Anyone who goes for genetic testing should be aware that in future, any information they receive about individual genes could have wider implications than they or the clinician immediately realize. They could also influence the risk of other conditions, so being aware of these wider effects is important."

Data from the National Human Genome Research Institutes' catalogue of published genes which influence risk of common diseases was used in the examination.

Written by: Grace Rattue