An intriguing study published in Nature Genetics this month suggests a reason why men may have shorter average lifespans and a higher risk of cancer than women - it could be down to misplaced Y chromosomes. Females mammals - including humans - have two X chromosomes, while men have X and Y, with Y being much smaller than the X.

Now an international team of researchers led by scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden have analysed blood from around 1,600 men. They discovered that the loss of the Y chromosome in a proportion of men's blood cells correlates with a shorter lifespan, as well as an increased chance of dying from cancer in other parts of the body, not just blood.

At the moment, it's not at all clear as to how the loss of the Y chromosome is having this effect. the male Y was previously only thought to be associated with jobs such as sperm production, so this is a big mystery that needs to be solved. But once it is, it could help to explain some of the disparities in health between men and women.


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