A team led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg have uncovered new evidence, supporting a role for inherited genetic changes influencing the risk of developing diseases that arise from myeloid cells.
In the future, the results could help to identify people most at risk of these diseases, where genetic testing, medical observation and counselling could be beneficial.
They could also lead to new research that uncovers genetic causes of myeloid cancers.
Myeloid cells are a group of cells produced in the bone marrow, which in normal circumstances specialise into cells of different types.
Genetic errors in these cells can lead to cancers and other diseases including acute and chronic myeloid leukaemia, the myeloproliferative neoplasms polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia and myelofibrosis, and myelodysplastic syndrome.
They analysed information about every patient diagnosed with myeloid diseases in Sweden over the last 60 years, comparing the occurrence of myeloid-type cancers and related diseases among more than 35,000 patients and 93,000 family members, against cases diagnosed among the general population.
People with more than one family member diagnosed with the myeloid diseases were around twice as likely to develop them as those with no family history, the study showed.
The risk varied depending on the type of disease.
The risk of developing acute myeloid leukaemia, for example, is likely to be around one-and-a-half times more for a first-degree relative of a patient than someone not related to a patient, the study showed.
The familial risk for some diseases was higher.