Dr. Guangfu Jin at Nanjing Medical University performed genetic research that determined that healthy lifestyle factors, including low body mass index, abstinence from smoking and drinking, and regular exercise correlated with a decrease in cancer, even in those with high genetic risk. Researchers are able to determine personalized estimates of an individual’s risk of developing cancer, which are known as polygenic risk scores (PRS), based on each unique combination of changes that influence cancer risk in areas of DNA. Jin and his colleagues calculated individual PRS for 16 cancers in men and 18 in women, and using statistical methods combined these scores into a single measure of cancer risk.
The results of this study show that patients with an unhealthy lifestyle and the highest quintile of genetic risk were 2.99 times more likely in men and 2.38 times more likely in women to develop cancer as opposed to those with a healthy lifestyle and the lowest quintile of genetic risk. Individuals at a high genetic risk of overall cancer can be identified by PRS, and this risk can be attenuated by adopting a favorable lifestyle. Jin stated that “these findings indicate that everyone should have a healthy lifestyle to decrease overall cancer risk”, which is particularly important to those with high genetic risk of cancer. Jin hopes that the CPRS were useful in improving one’s self-awareness of their inherited susceptibility to cancer and motivating them to maintain a favorable and healthy lifestyle.