Cross-cancer evaluation of polygenic risk scores for 16 cancer types in two large cohorts

Nat Commun. 2021 Feb 12;12(1):970. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21288-z.


Even distinct cancer types share biological hallmarks. Here, we investigate polygenic risk score (PRS)-specific pleiotropy across 16 cancers in European ancestry individuals from the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging cohort (16,012 cases, 50,552 controls) and UK Biobank (48,969 cases, 359,802 controls). Within cohorts, each PRS is evaluated in multivariable logistic regression models against all other cancer types. Results are then meta-analyzed across cohorts. Ten positive and one inverse cross-cancer associations are found after multiple testing correction. Two pairs show bidirectional associations; the melanoma PRS is positively associated with oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer and vice versa, whereas the lung cancer PRS is positively associated with oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer, and the oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer PRS is inversely associated with lung cancer. Overall, we validate known, and uncover previously unreported, patterns of pleiotropy that have the potential to inform investigations of risk prediction, shared etiology, and precision cancer prevention strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / classification*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor