I am so happy to report that the MTHFR C677T mutation now comes with a superpower, and it’s prostate cancer protection. It’s not quite X-Men worthy and I have to admit mind control might be a bit cooler, but protection against one of the most common forms of cancer is nothing to scoff at.
The association between MTHFR mutation and prostate cancer has been unclear, with some studies showing increased risk, some studies showing no change and some showing decreased risk, so the information can be difficult to wade through. A recent research study conducted in Shanghai and published in Scientific Reports shows that C677T polymorphisms, whether they are homozygous or heterozygous, are actually protective against prostate cancer although they are quick to say that this study was conducted on the Han Chinese population in Shanghai and that the results may be different for different ethnic groups.
The study shows that intracellular homocysteine levels are slightly elevated when the C677T mutation is present and that elevated homocysteine actually helps to encourage damaged cells, such as precancerous and cancerous cells, to die off the way they should, rather than proliferating into full blown cancer. In unfortunate news, a recent meta-analysis published in Genetics and Molecular Research, showed that this association may not exist in caucasian males and that in this population C677T mutation may not have any effect on prostate cancer. Interestingly, this same meta-analysis showed that the A1298C mutation might have a slight protective effect against prostate cancer in European males.
The most important thing to remember, is that almost every mutation that exists in humans or animals has a double edge – it often has some drawbacks, but typically benefits too or the members of the population with that mutation would die out. MTHFR seems to be, if anything, becoming more common so I suspect in years to come we will find many other benefits associated with it.