Association of Polygenic Risk Scores for Multiple Cancers in a Phenome-wide Study: Results from The Michigan Genomics Initiative

Am J Hum Genet. 2018 Jun 7;102(6):1048-1061. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 May 17.


Health systems are stewards of patient electronic health record (EHR) data with extraordinarily rich depth and breadth, reflecting thousands of diagnoses and exposures. Measures of genomic variation integrated with EHRs offer a potential strategy to accurately stratify patients for risk profiling and discover new relationships between diagnoses and genomes. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether polygenic risk scores (PRS) for common cancers are associated with multiple phenotypes in a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) conducted in 28,260 unrelated, genotyped patients of recent European ancestry who consented to participate in the Michigan Genomics Initiative, a longitudinal biorepository effort within Michigan Medicine. PRS for 12 cancer traits were calculated using summary statistics from the NHGRI-EBI catalog. A total of 1,711 synthetic case-control studies was used for PheWAS analyses. There were 13,490 (47.7%) patients with at least one cancer diagnosis in this study sample. PRS exhibited strong association for several cancer traits they were designed for, including female breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and thyroid cancer. Phenome-wide significant associations were observed between PRS and many non-cancer diagnoses. To differentiate PRS associations driven by the primary trait from associations arising through shared genetic risk profiles, the idea of "exclusion PRS PheWAS" was introduced. Further analysis of temporal order of the diagnoses improved our understanding of these secondary associations. This comprehensive PheWAS used PRS instead of a single variant.

Keywords: electronic health records; genetic variation; genome-wide association study; hospitals; humans; multifactorial inheritance; neoplasms; phenome-wide association study; phenotype; risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors