Genetic Contributions to the Association between Adult Height and Head and Neck Cancer: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis

Roberta Pastorino, Anna Puggina*, Robert Carreras-Torres, Pagona Lagiou, Ivana Holcátová, Lorenzo Richiardi, Kristina Kjaerheim, Antonio Agudo, Xavier Castellsagué, Tatiana V. Macfarlane, Luigi Barzan, Cristina Canova, Nalin S. Thakker, David I. Conway, Ariana Znaor, Claire M. Healy, Wolfgang Ahrens, David Zaridze, Neonilia Szeszenia-Dabrowska, Jolanta LissowskaEleonora Fabianova, Ioan Nicolae Mates, Vladimir Bencko, Lenka Foretova, Vladimir Janout, Paul Brennan, Valérie Gaborieau, James D. McKay, Stefania Boccia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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With the aim to dissect the effect of adult height on head and neck cancer (HNC), we use the Mendelian randomization (MR) approach to test the association between genetic instruments for height and the risk of HNC. 599 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified as genetic instruments for height, accounting for 16% of the phenotypic variation. Genetic data concerning HNC cases and controls were obtained from a genome-wide association study. Summary statistics for genetic association were used in complementary MR approaches: the weighted genetic risk score (GRS) and the inverse-variance weighted (IVW). MR-Egger regression was used for sensitivity analysis and pleiotropy evaluation. From the GRS analysis, one standard deviation (SD) higher height (6.9 cm; due to genetic predisposition across 599 SNPs) raised the risk for HNC (Odds ratio (OR), 1.14; 95% Confidence Interval (95%CI), 0.99-1.32). The association analyses with potential confounders revealed that the GRS was associated with tobacco smoking (OR = 0.80, 95% CI (0.69-0.93)). MR-Egger regression did not provide evidence of overall directional pleiotropy. Our study indicates that height is potentially associated with HNC risk. However, the reported risk could be underestimated since, at the genetic level, height emerged to be inversely associated with smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4534
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date14 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: The authors thank the Italian Association for Research on Cancer (AIRC, IG 2013 n. 14211) and the PRECeDI project (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange - RISE N°645740) for supporting the work of Roberta Pastorino and Anna Puggina.


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