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Y Chromosome May Protect against Cancer, Other Diseases

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The image shows our 23 pairs of chromosomes

The Y chromosome, our smallest one, may have value beyond its size. Credit: OpenLearn LabSpace

The male Y chromosome is more than a sex object. Yes, it has genes that, when paired with a female X chromosome, make a real man–genes for sex determination and sperm creation. But that’s beginning to look like a superficial view of this smallest, stubbiest of our chromosomes. The Y also seems to hold genetic keys that stave off cancer and add years to a man’s life, according to new research.

The study, published Monday in Nature Genetics, followed about 1100 Swedish men for more than 40 years. It showed that elderly men with some blood cells that had mutated and lost the Y also lost about 5 years from their lifespans, compared with men in the group who still had their Ys. Cancer was a particular affliction.

That would be an odd, somewhat puzzling result. Except that it comes on the heels of other research, published just last week in Nature, that showed the Y harbored what biologist and study coauthor David Page called 12 “elite” genes. These genes, he told Scientific American, have nothing to do with sex but everything to do with the proper functioning of cells throughout the body.

These genes synthesize proteins, help form connections between nerve cells, heighten the immune system’s ability to detect threats, and do many other things that keep us going. They are important enough, Pages noted, that they have been preserved on the Y for millions of years while most of the chromosome’s other genes have been whittled away.  They are survivors, he believes, because they help us survive.

The Swedish study bolsters that view. The men ranged in age from their early 70s to early 80s. Those who suffered from cancer, and had an early demise, were prone to lose Y chromosomes in their white blood cells. (As cells replicate, mutations—errors in the replication process–sometimes rob them of genes or, in this case, entire chromosomes.) These blood cells are part of the immune system and normally help seek and destroy cancer cells, note Jan Dumanski and Lars Forsberg, researchers in Uppsala University’s Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, who led the study. Without a Y and its hardy cargo of genes, these cells may fail in their mission, they and their colleagues suggest.

It is an intriguing bit of evidence that Page’s contention, that the Y carries an organism’s survival kit, may not be too far off the mark.

Josh Fischman About the Author: Josh is a senior editor at Scientific American, covering biology, chemistry, and earth science. On Twitter, he is @jfischman, and you can email him story ideas at Follow on Twitter @jfischman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. SJCrum 6:51 pm 04/29/2014

    With all due respect again, the Y chromosome will not affect cancer at all, or in any way. the real science about cancer is as follows.
    First of all, all cancer is caused by virus entering body cells, and when they get inside they bond to any of the open atom bond points in the rung atoms. A bonded virus than causes the rung to break apart in the center, and this then stops the cell operation.
    By the way, in the 1960′s polio was caused by a living virus also, and they bonded in the same exact way. A serum was made by killing polio virus and then injecting the serum into the bodies where the dead virus were taken into the cells and then attached at the polio-causing bond locations. The end result of this is that the dead virus then made it impossible for any living virus to bond there. So, this is how a serum works.
    As far as cancer, the same serum type can be used also.
    But, even better is that all cancer is caused by virus entering bodies in two ways. the first is using tobacco products that have virus flocking to the heat of tobacco leaves as it grows, and since the drying process doesn’t kill the virus at all, they can then get into bodies.
    The second type is virus that are highly attracted to the heat during the growth of broccoli. And since raw broccoli is just cleaned and the virus are not killed also, eating it can cause living virus to get into cells also. Unfortunately. broccoli is considered to be a very healthy item, and quite frankly, frozen or cooked broccoli certainly is. But, raw is as dangerous as it can get.
    So, not ingesting virus by either of these ways can totally prevent cancer.
    As for people who already have cancer, one thing is to NOT eat anymore of the dangerous items. People can easily be cancer-free for years and then have it reoccur simply by eating more.
    By the way, the body’s defense system can, and does, kill virus, but it can be totally overwhelmed by constantly eating more and more.
    So, the chromosome item isn’t involved in this at all.

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  2. 2. Murray12206182 4:03 am 04/30/2014

    Once again, a fascinating article. I would love to see how this information might help future generations of scientists enhance our knowledge of and capacity to fight off the scourge of cancer.

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  3. 3. SAULT18 11:25 am 04/30/2014


    You have a fundamental lack of understanding concerning cancer and biology in general. Genetic mutations, either hereditary or caused by environmental exposures, can cause cancer as well. Toxic substances, free radicals and other carcinogens can also cause cancer. Please read up on some actual science before you go about spreading more unfounded rumors and misinformation.

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  4. 4. Nicolene808 11:22 am 05/1/2014

    If the y chromosome is responsible for tumour suppression in men, what type of defence mechanisms do women have in place since they have no y chromosome but still generally outlive men?

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  5. 5. Griffin88 1:20 pm 05/2/2014


    Women have different biological mechanisms in place to protect them. Biological differences are initiated during sex determination. As I assume you know, women have two X chromosomes while men have only one X and one Y. Men thus have a ‘unprotected’ chromosome because a genetic mutation on the X chromosome won’t be able to be dominated by another X chromosome like in women. In women, if a genetic mutation is carried by the one X chromosome, the chance that the woman would suffer negative effects from that mutation is very slight since the mutation can be dominated by the corresponding X chromosome. The mutation doesn’t disappear though and can be carried over to the next generation.

    In general, men have a much greater chance of having genetic mutations that causes them to be prone to diseases and thus hasten the demise in men.

    There are various other factors contributing as well and the above should just be seen as a fraction of as holistic explanation.

    I sincerely hope my answer contributed to your comprehension.

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  6. 6. SJCrum 5:04 pm 05/2/2014

    Sault18 – Unfortunately, your comments are totally clueless about the real cause of cancer.
    First of all, cancer is a cell disease, and that is a total fact. As a cell disease, the virus that are bonded to the atom DNA structure causes the body to DUPLICATE any new cells by matching the cell with a living virus bonded to it. This is then what causes the HUGE tumor growths, and because when the cells are matched, much larger new cells have to exist that can EQUAL one with the very powerful virus attached.
    So, real science fact proves without any doubt at all that the huge tumor, and rapidly growing cells like that all occur only because of the very powerful virus in them.
    So, you are totally clueless about that rock-solid science FACT.
    As for another item, cancer in this country is considered to be a chronic disease. The point of chronic is that it is assumed by “experts” that there is no cure, or ever will be. The real truth is that cancer is a billion dollar money-maker, and there are those who factually do not want a cure.
    As for your comment about genetic mutations being able to cause cancer, that is totally absurd and doesn’t have any truth to it at all. Mutations are nothing more than changes to the DNA “physical” structure, and all of them end with DNA that is perfectly workable. In other words, they are at the beginning points totally without any cell diseases. So, your genetic mutation comment is nothing but an untruth that doesn’t have any real science to it at all. And, it is just like the diversions from the real cause that the so-called experts describe as they try to prevent any cure.
    And, toxic substances are a diversion as well because none of that type of thing would even come close to tumor growth at all. Instead, that would kill cells instead. So, it’s absurd to say that toxic “anything” would cause any huge cell growth at all. And it doesn’t and is totally impossible for that to occur in real science.
    For real truth, cancer makes 100 billion dollars in profit each and every year.
    In the end, sorry, but you don’t have any understanding about the real science facts at all.

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  7. 7. SJCrum 5:32 pm 05/2/2014

    Nicolene808 – The defense system in human bodies isn’t in any chromosomes at all, and is instead a completely different system, and a system that sends out defensive “objects” that hunt down all living virus that have invaded the body, and then kill them.
    So, unfortunately, the chromosome theory isn’t even close to the real science of the body’s defense system. Chromosomes don’t move at all, and just stay attached to the sides of cells, and just do the non-moving work they are supposed to do. There real purpose is to have the atom cores in turned-on “ladder rungs” of the DNA structure to spin, and that spin causes two types of moving energy that together creates the living energy of life in the cells. And, those two energy types are a small electrical currect, and a moving heat.
    As for preventing cancer, that can be accomplished in two different ways. One is to have the body be a shealthy as it can be, and so iots defense system is able to kill the virus. A second is to not eat any raw produce that has live virus in it, and that is broccoli entirely. Virus love it. Another is using any type od tobacco at all, and because virus thrive on the growing heat of that type also.
    By the way, cancer caused by tobacco is tremendously revealing as to what causes cancer. Chewing tobacco is especially revealing and because it is raw tobacco that is chewed in just the mouth. The point is that is the only contact it has to the body, and the cancer damage to a person’s mouth from constant chewing can be enormous. I saw a picture of a young male that was in his mid-twenties, and he had his entire lower jaw on one side completely removed. And, all because he constantly chewed raw tobacco and his body’s defense system couldn’t kill all of them.
    As for another enormously revealing and as disgustingly evil as it gets, is when truly caring mothers try extremely to help their children eat very good, healthy food, and then but raw broccoli thinking that it is one of the best. And, it is, “”"IF”"” it is cooked or frozen to kill the virus in it.
    The totally disgusting thing is that that very good healthy practice is extremely good for children, and everyone, but it causes unfortunately, all of the children’s cancer in the world.
    Another thing to know is, that if a study is made, it would be found that the people with the most healthy eating habits are the ones that get cancer the most.
    So, even I totally love eating raw broccoli, and it is just great in dips and other ways. But, it’s as dangerous as anything in the world.
    The human body simply cannot handle enormous amounts of constantly invading virus. it can kill lots of them, but not endlessly and in huge amounts.
    By the way, another rock-solid proof of virus causing cancer is in the situation of why cats get cancer also. And, dogs do not. The reason is because cats get treats of broccoli. And, picky dogs would rather pee on your foot if they are forced to eat it. Sorry about the joke, but, my gosh, something’s got to improve the day over this horrible crap about endless cancer.
    So, protect yourself, what I have described is real, and fact.

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  8. 8. SJCrum 5:34 pm 05/2/2014

    I am REEEALLY PROUD of YOU for letting this be printed, Scientific American.

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  9. 9. SJCrum 6:06 pm 05/2/2014

    Nicolene808 – just for information about why females live longer than males on the average, males often have more stressful jobs, and that can cause them to have eating habits that aren’t all that healthy. One such item, is in eating man-sized steaks, and other things. Steaks though are unfortunately something that can cause very early problems.
    The point is that all arterial blockage is caused by blood cells sticking to the sides of arteries. And, present-day medical facilities know od this, and their theory is that when an artery wall gets damaged the body then attaches blood cells to protect the walls.
    The real science is that when beef is eaten, unfortunately, they keep the blood in it so it isn’t the dark ugly brown color of beef without blood, and so it will sell better. Unfortunately, that beef blood, and especially with steaks that are bloodier, the ingested beef blood cells then stick to the sides of human arteries. And, this is because those cells are not designed to be in human arteries at all.
    As for proving this, a simple test of “blockage” material from after a by-pass surgery can reveal that that material is not human at all, but is in fact, beef blood.
    As for females living longer, they usually have a more calm life and are far more likely to care about what they eat more. That might appear to be a little too simplistic, but it is likely very close to hitting the nail on the head “almost” perfectly.
    By the way, beef without blood in it is just perfectly fine. But, I know od a fairly young male who id fairly wealthy also, and his habit of eating lots of steaks has caused him to have by-pass surgery at an age that is far too young.

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  10. 10. Nicolene808 9:31 am 05/3/2014

    SJCrum- Thank you for the deep insight regarding my question. I do now see that I had a far too elementary view on the subject and your answer really made me grasp the concept.

    As for your last comment on why men have a shorter lifespan than women, I do not agree with your statement that in general men have a more stressful workload. I feel this is a very prejudiced statement as women have the same opportunities as men and thus in general the same stress load. To add to that, woman are primarily the chief care givers in families and have the additional stress of seeing that their family is well taken care of. The biological facts about the meat I agree with, but still feel that this can be applied to both sexes.

    I understand that there are various other factors contributing to the life span of women and men, but stress should be excluded since it is a too general argument to assume how much stress a person experiences based on their gender and work obligations. There too are too many stress contributing factors to take into consideration to be fully accurate

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  11. 11. SJCrum 6:50 pm 05/3/2014

    Nicolene808 – In my comment about stress in men and women, I obviously made a mistake in how I wrote that, because I have an extreme appreciation for all of the great things that females do, and accomplish. In truth, I honestly believe that females are more intelligent than males on the average, and that they factually have to work far harder in an almost always male-dominated world. I also think females are far more intelligent and practical about everything that is extremely important in the world, and life in nearly every case.
    So, I honestly think females are exceptional in just about anything.
    In my own life, my wife, after straying home with our children for fourteen years told me one day that her self esteem was a little low. And, since she had graduated with honors from a university, she hadn’t had much of a chance to have success in a career. Instead, we had an extremely wonderful life that she had much to do with also, but still, she was feeling a little down.
    The point of this is that I knew of something that was tremendously fun to do as a career, and even though I shouldn’t as a male, encourage her to go into something that I liked, in the end, it was totally perfect for her. As far as the end result of that, she started making significantly more in her career than I ever had in the maximum of mine, and we actually changed places as to who cooked meals, and actually shopped. By the way, before I go on, I was breaking company records while construction multi-million dollar buildings, and accomplishing success that was completely unheard of during virtually all of my career. But, our marriage was far too important, and we traded places. I even came up with some totally original recipes, and my wife actually liked about eighty percent of the really terrific clothing I bought for her. I took back what she didn’t like, but she really looked great in the fantastic things she kept.
    As for what this is all about, in her greatest year of success, she, at $94,000 a year, made very close to two and one-half the amount I ever made in my $40,000 career.
    So, females can accomplish totally amazing things in this life also. And, no, I wasn’t disappointed about her making more than me. Her self esteem and our life success in total was enormously greater than anything else in the world to me.
    So, I truly do not think females are less in any way at all. Instead, I think they are totally fantastic. As for my wife and me also, we are now retired because I had to get her out of the company where she worked, and where they soon laid off eighty percent of their workforce. And, terrifically, we have been married for forty-four years, and have love twice each week, with an incredibly yummy way to wake up each morning during each of the weekdays in between weekend love times.
    So again, I think females are totally-out-of-this-world fannnntastic. And, I wouldn’t think in a zillion years anything bad about female’s and their stress items. So, I am sorry for the misunderstanding. So, also, have a truly nice, stress-free day. Even if you have to work on it to get it.

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  12. 12. SJCrum 6:57 pm 05/3/2014

    By the way, to anyone who cares, the chromosomes described in this article are the exact same thing as the DNA ladder structures that exist in all human body cells, and which have the atoms in turned-on ladder rungs spinning to make the living life energy in them.
    As for the chromosomes, think of a ladder that has two side rails and then the horizontal rungs that a person steps on to climb the ladder. Now, think of a person with a power saw cutting it vertically right down the center of all of the rungs. Each side after the cutting is a chromosome. And, because the entire structure of the “ladder” is actually a mechanical generator, all that each side is is just half of the “ladder”. Or, the right or left side of the generator.

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  13. 13. sdreyn 7:40 pm 05/5/2014

    Just reading what SJCrum wrote, made my stomach turn!! Maybe some kid is playing a cruel joke on us adults! To make matters worse, Nicolene808 actually thanked SJCrum for giving her deep insight. Anyone who has ever had a basic high school biology class, would recognize that SJCrum probably gets his/her scientific knowledge from reading blurbs on the Internet (maybe Joey’s Homepage??), without actually understanding any of it. SAULT18 clearly knows what causes cancer. Listen to SAULT18 and learn some basic biology! Why am I even replying? Why did Scientific American allow SJCrum’s post to be published?

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  14. 14. JaydenDJ 2:04 am 10/7/2014

    I agree with SJCrum that I am also proud of Scientific American for allowing posts to be printed such as his. It’s unfortunate for you that reading the opinions of another person would make your stomach turn. Even if he were a troll just trying to get a kick out of posting B.S. to a comment forum you need to be able to read things and take what you want and leave the rest for others to do the same.
    Furthermore he is more enlightened that the average reader about cancer because a lot of it is in fact caused by a virus. If you have any doubt simply google, “is cancer caused by a virus” before posting to the forum how it turns your stomach to read this. I do not agree with his view of tobacco and broccoli being the two only ways you can get the many countless forms of cancer that exist, but I have no problem leaving it here for someone that might agree with it.
    Also, I have no doubt whatsoever that he is hitting the nail on the head about cancer being a $100 Billion dollar a year business. Common sense will tell you that $100 Billion can influence a lot of decisions to keep that business up and running. I also believe that a lot more is known about cancer that what is accepted by mainstream society but if you try to publish something that goes against their business model making a 100 billion a year, well . .most researchers learn not to make that mistake if they want to continue being a researcher, which limits us to a vast wealth of information.
    If Scientific American were to censor comments such as SJ’s just because they went against their beliefs, or yours, then can not you see how that could limit us as readers in the same way? We would lose all comments that didn’t go with what Scientific American believed. And for that I applaud Scientific American.
    Censorship in my opinion is much like cancer. While it doesn’t kill anyone directly it robs the living of many things including information of how to save lives. And all because people think they are right and anyone who thinks and speaks differently needs to be silenced. I have a quote from Jake Zeitlin that is what I consider pure genius, I just wish all of us understood it and accepted it the world would be a much better place. Thats all I have to say but Ill leave the Jake Zietlin quote for those who might find it as as enlightening as I have

    “I cannot convince myself that there is anyone so wise, so universally comprehensive in his judgment, that he can be trusted with the power to tell others:
    ‘You shall not express yourself thus, you shall not describe your own experiences; or depict the fantasies which your mind has created; or laugh at what others set up as respectable; or question old beliefs; or contradict the dogmas of the church, of our society, our economic systems, and our political orthodoxy.” – Jake Zeitlin

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