Background: In cultured, dividing transformed T lymphocytes and in dividing bone marrow cells from normal men and those with a haematological malignancy, sex chromosome aneuploidy has been found to increase in prevalence and degree with age. This has rarely been investigated in non-dividing uncultured blood samples. The loss and gain of the X chromosome in dividing transformed lymphocytes in women with age is much more frequent than that of the Y chromosome in males. However, paradoxically X chromosome aneuploidy is rarely seen in the dividing cells of bone marrow of females.
Methods: In blood samples from 565 men with breast cancer and 54 control men from the England and Wales general population, 80 cell nuclei per sample were scored for presence of X and Y chromosomes using fluorescent centromeric probes.
Results: Sex chromosome aneuploidy, largely Y chromosome loss, was present in 63% of cases and 57% of controls, with the prevalence and degree of aneuploidy increasingly sharply and highly significantly with age. At ages 65-80 years, 71% of cases and 85% of controls showed aneuploidy and 15% and 25%, respectively, had ≥ 10% of cells aneuploid. Allowing for age, aneuploidy was less prevalent (P=0.03) in cases than controls.
Conclusion: Sex chromosome aneuploidy in non-dividing nuclei of peripheral blood cells is frequent in adult men, the prevalence and degree increasing sharply with age. The possible relation of sex chromosome aneuploidy to breast cancer risk in men, and to cancer risk generally, needs further investigation, ideally in cohort studies.