Population-Based Genetic Studies of Cancer and Healthy Aging

The number of elderly Canadians is increasing as the baby boomers age. Insight into how to promote healthy aging, coupled with advice that can be provided to our population as it ages, will influence Canada’s healthcare costs, as well as the quality of life of a large segment of our population. Cancer and aging are intimately connected. Cancer incidence rises with age, and this increase accelerates dramatically over 60 years of age. Cancer and other aging-associated diseases like cardiovascular disease are thought to result from the interaction of numerous genetic and environmental or lifestyle factors. Population-based studies that use large groups of affected and unaffected individuals are now the preferred method to study the genetics of complex diseases. This program has clinical relevance and involves close collaboration with clinical experts to study healthy aging and two specific cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cervical cancer. The overall objective is to discover genetic factors that contribute to susceptibility to cancer or confer long-term good health. The program will use state-of-the-art genetic analysis methods, and over the next 5 years will expand these projects and add additional types of cancer. This coordinated study of cancer and healthy aging is a unique and innovative approach by which we will increase our understanding of the connection between cancer and aging and benefit from new knowledge regarding the basis of common aging-associated diseases like cancer. This research will lead to development of clinically useful markers that will help individuals avoid developing diseases as they age.