Genetics accounts for 50% of the risk of a common testicular cancer

Environmental factors are strongly implicated in the development of testicular cancer, but up to 50% of the risk is attributable to genetics, suggests a new analysis of Swedish population data.

Genetics account for 50% of the risk of testicular germ cell tumours (micrograph pictured) in young men

Testicular germ cell tumours (TGCT) are the most common cancers in young men. The incidence of TGCTs has doubled over the past 40 years in Western Europe, which implicates environmental factors in disease aetiology, though these factors have not yet been identified. But TGCT is known to also have a strong genetic link.

Now, research led by the Institute of Cancer Research in London found up to half of the risk of developing TGCT is inherited. The study, published in Scientific Reports
on 9 September 2015, estimates heritability based on Swedish population data and a genome-wide association study (GWAS) dataset.

Heritability explained by known common risk single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was 9.1%, whereas the heritability explained by all common SNPs was 37.4%. The results demonstrate that TGCT is “strongly heritable” and that many SNPs remain to be identified, remark the authors.


[1] Litchfield K, Thomsen H, Mitchell JS et al . Quantifying the heritability of testicular germ cell tumour using both population-based and genomic approaches. Scientific Reports 2015;5:13889. doi:10.1038/srep13889.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 19 September 2015, Vol 295, No 7880;295(7880):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20069338