Fathers may transmit ovarian cancer risk to daughters, a new study reveals

Daughter and father holding hands

A study by American scientists has revealed that a new gene mutation can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The study, featured in the PLoS Genetics journal, claims that the gene, MAGEC3, is passed from fathers to their daughters.

The scientists believe that this X-chromosome, passed down by fathers carries the gene, is independent of other known susceptibility genes that women are already tested for.

However, the researchers Dr Kevin Eng and colleagues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, say more studies should be conducted to confirm the identity and function of the MAGEC3.

Defining Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Terri Cornelison defines Ovarian Cancer as “cancer that primarily involves or originates in the ovaries.”


The Kenya Society of Haematology and Oncology (KESHO) outlines three kinds of tumours that develop from ovarian cells:

  • Epithelial tumours start from the cells covering the outer surface of the ovary. They are the most common ovarian tumours.
  • Germ cell tumours start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova).
  • Stromal tumours start from structural tissue cells that hold the ovary together and produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian Cancer in Kenya

The Health Grove states that in Kenya, the annual mortality rate per 100,000 people from ovarian cancer increase at an average of 0.4% a year from 1990 to 2010.

In 2013, a 10-year review of case records of patients treated for this kind of cancer between 1998 and 2008 at the Kenyatta National Hospital revealed that:

  • Most patients (73.3%) were already in the advanced stage of disease (stages III & IV).
  • Epithelial tumours (86.2%) are the commonest type
  • Chemotherapy was the most (46.0%) common therapeutic option.

The study further indicated the need for timely diagnosis as a means of preventing deaths.

The MAGEC3 study

Image: ©Journals.plos.org

The research, carried out on 3,499 grandmother/granddaughter pairs, indicated that the rate of cancers was 28.4% in paternal grandmother/granddaughter pairs and 13.9% in maternal pairs and that paternal grandmother cases had an earlier age-of-onset as compared to maternal cases.

From the study:

  • Earlier onset of ovarian cancer may be associated with the isolated gene MAGEC3. However, this gene and the X-linked pattern will require additional study
  • There may be many cases of seemingly sporadic ovarian cancer that are actually inherited. ;
  • This X-linked pattern implies the need to prioritize families for screening even without additional testing.

In Kenya, a number of centres offer cancer screenings at an affordable rate.


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