The study involved 1,153 Swedish men who were part of a long-term health study. The researchers, led by Dr Lars Forsberg, analyzed DNA from blood samples that were obtained when the men were in their 70s and early 80s.
Results indicated that at least 8 percent of the men had a loss of Y chromosome in their blood cells. Additionally, some 2 percent of the men had no Y chromosome in at least 35 percent of their blood cells. These men were at risk of dying 5.5 years sooner than other men and were also three times more likely to die of cancer.
"Loss of Y has previously been considered a part of normal aging," said Lars Forsberg. "One of the most important aspects of our results is that loss of Y in cells in a single sample of blood can predict cancer in the other organs of the body."
The study details are published online on April 28 in Nature Genetics.