Cancer by negative heterosis: Breast and ovarian cancer excess in hybrids of inbred ethnic groups

S. Denic, F. Khatib, M. Awad, G. Karbani, J. Milenkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Breast and ovarian cancer rates in Pakistan are significantly higher than in neighboring countries. The cancer rate discrepancies cannot be explained with discrepancies of their risk factors. We propose that observed cancer excess in Pakistan is due to cancer development by negative heterosis. Heterosis occurs when a hybrid has a phenotypic characteristic significantly different from that in either parent (hybrid vigor). At a molecular level, heterosis occurs in a heterozygote when one of the two alleles is inactivated. Gene inactivation occurs by methylation of cytosine in a promoter region of a gene. Initiation of allele inactivation is linked to the factors like stress, gender, diet, or another gene. In heterozygote, inactivation of one of the two tumor-suppressor alleles leads to monoallelic expression. This increases cancer risk in the same way the risk is increased in individual who inherit a single mutated tumor-suppressor gene (hereditary cancer syndrome). In both, cancer by heterosis and inherited cancer syndrome, cancer develops after inactivation of a second allele (second hit hypothesis). In a population, conditions that favor development of cancer by heterosis are those that favor mating of a large number of different homozygotes because they produce a large number of different heterozygotes. Among a large number of heterozygotes, there is an increased chance that some of hybrids will develop cancer by heterosis. In Pakistan, conditions were favorable for cancer development by heterosis because country has a high number of different ethnic groups and brotherhoods all of which have a higher rate of homozygosity due to a high frequency of consanguineous marriages, and marriages between members of different groups occurred because of intense population mixing. Result was birth of a large number of inter-ethnic/brotherhood hybrids (heterozygotes), some of which have developed cancer by heterosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1006
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Hypotheses
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Cancer by negative heterosis: Breast and ovarian cancer excess in hybrids of inbred ethnic groups'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this