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X Marks the Spot

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According to a new study in Nature Genetics, men may have a higher rate of colorectal cancer than women because of a fault in the X chromosome, reports the UK Press Association. The defect in the chromosome is linked to reduced activity in the SHROOM2 gene, which controls cell development. Since women have two X chromosomes, a defect in one can be masked by the other, whereas men have to rely on the one X chromosome they have, UKPA adds.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that anyone has shown that one of the sex chromosomes is involved in the development of a cancer that can afflict both sexes. This may help explain why bowel cancer is slightly more common in men. Ultimately, it could also help us target screening to those who are more at risk of the disease," said senior author Richard Houlston, of the Institute of Cancer Research, in a statement.

The researchers studied SNP data from five previous international studies and searched for SNPs in common between people with colorectal cancer, reports the International Business Times. They found that SHROOM2 plays a large role in the development of the disease. They also found a variant in the CDKN1A gene — which normally controls a number of tumor suppressor pathways and blocks the creation of new strands of DNA — and a variant in the POLD3 gene — which normally plays a role in two DNA damage repair pathways — which seem to contribute to colorectal cancer risk, the IBTimes adds.

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