Folk with Whalsay ancestry at higher cancer risk

People with Whalsay ancestry are at a significantly higher risk of getting cancer, a major new study has revealed.

Those with grandparents from the island are more likely than the rest of the UK population to carry a genetic variant that increases cancer risk.

One in 40 people of Whalsay heritage have the same change in the BRCA2 gene – one of the most common genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer in women, and breast and prostate cancer in men.

The genetic change can be passed down from parent to child, affecting multiple members of the same family.

The results came from Viking Genes – a University of Edinburgh research project founded by chief investigator, Professor Jim Wilson.

“We found a number of carriers who had a disease causing change in the gene called BRCA2,” Prof. Wilson told The Shetland Times.

“We could see that nearly 80 per cent of the people [with this change] had grandparents from Whalsay.

“I’ve been able to trace it back. I think this change in the genes happened about 300 years ago and it’s been passed down the generations.”

Professor Wilson will be discussing these findings in more detail at the Symbister Hall in Whalsay tonight (Thursday) at 7pm. 


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