In most cancers, DNA typically accounts for less than 20% of development. In testicular cancer, however, almost 50% comes from DNA, according to a new study.

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Almost half mens’ risk for developing testicular cancer is inherited, researchers find.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, new research from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK, produced with colleagues in Germany, Sweden and the US, suggests that individuals at greatest risk of testicular cancer could be identified through testing for a range of genetic variants.

“Screening of men with a family history of testicular cancer could help to diagnose those at greatest risk, and help them to manage that risk”, says senior researcher Dr. Clare Turnbull, of the Genetics and Epidemiology at ICR.

The researchers adopted two independent approaches to analyze the risk of testicular germ cell tumors.

Firstly, they used statistical analysis to assess patterns of ancestral testicular cancer in family groups among 15.7 million people who were part of the Swedish Population Registry cancer family database. This database included 9,324 cases of testicular cancer.

Next, the team analyzed the genetic code of 6,000 men from the UK from two previous studies of testicular cancer. Of these men, 986 had been diagnosed with the disease.

Fast facts about testicular cancer
  • A painless lump on or in the testicle is the most common symptom of testicular cancer
  • Men between 20 and 34 account for around half of all testicular cancer cases
  • Most testicular cancers are found early on.

Learn more about testicular cancer

The analysis revealed that 49% of all possible risk factors for testicular cancer are inherited. What is more, rather than one faulty gene having a significant effect, the team found that inherited risk stems from numerous minor variations in DNA code.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Turnbull says:

“Our study has shown that testicular cancer is a strongly heritable disease. Around half of a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer comes from the genes he inherits from his parents with environmental and behavioral factors contributing to the other half.”

The study produced another finding of significance. The researchers note that the known mutations associated with testicular cancer only accounted for 9.1% of the risk of developing the disease, suggesting the almost 40% inherited risk remaining consists of gene mutations that have yet to be discovered.

As such, Dr. Turnbull says there is much more work to be done. “There are a lot of genetic factors that cause testicular cancer which we are yet to find – so the first step must be to identify the genetic drivers of testicular cancer so we can develop new ways to prevent it,” she adds.

Last year, Medical News Today reported on the dramatic rise in testicular cancer among young Hispanic men in the US over past 20 years.

Written by Jonathan Vernon