A simple blood test to identify if men have lost crucial genetic material in later life could finally close the gap in life expectancy between men and women, scientists believe.
New research shows that when men lose their Y sex chromosome they are hundreds of times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous research has shown that smoking hugely increases the risk of losing the Y chromosome, suggesting that the missing genetic material may also be linked to cancer.
It is thought that Y chromosome is crucial for the normal function of the immune system and without it the body struggles to eliminate cancerous cells, and amyloid plaques in the brain which cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Now scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden have found it is possible to test for loss of the chromosome in a breakthrough which could lead to widespread screening which could pick up which men are at risk so that early health interventions could be made.
“The addition of testing in the general population could give medical practitioners the possibility of using preventive strategies in men at risk,” said lead author Prof Lars Forsberg of Uppsala University.
“For example, in cancer, primary tumours are usually not deadly; it is the metastatic process that it normally responsible for deaths.
“If we could predict which men have an increased risk, we could watch them closely for the development of disease and also use appropriate preventive treatments.
“In short, the widespread use of testing could radically decrease male mortality rates, and even perhaps eliminate the difference in life expectancy between the sexes.”