Scientists have discovered for the first time that the female sex chromosome is involved in the development of bowel cancer.
Chromosomes determine everything from our hair colour to our sex. In most animals, those who possess XX chromosomes are female while male animals possess an X and a Y chromosome.
Scientists at the University of Oxford and Edinburgh University, led by The Institute of Cancer Research, analysed five international studies to find a link between sex chromosomes and bowel cancer.
Writing in the journal Nature Genetics, the researchers identified an alteration on the female X chromosome associated with bowel cancer.
Since women have two X chromosomes, the fault in one may be masked by the other functioning chromosome. But men have just one X chromosome, meaning they could be at higher risk of developing the disease.
Professor Richard Houlston, one of the scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said:
"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."
Dr Lesley Walker, from the charity Cancer Research UK which funded the study, said: "This research shows how a range of genes could be behaving in bowel cancer, potentially leading to new treatments for the disease."
Bowel cancer is currently the third most common form of cancer in Britain, according to Cancer Research UK, with 41,142 cases reported in 2009 alone. To be covered for the best bowel cancer treatment in the UK, look for a health insurance policy with full cancer cover.
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