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Observational epidemiological studies have found an association between schizophrenia and breast cancer, but it is not known if the relationship is a causal one. We used summary statistics from very large genome-wide association studies of schizophrenia (n = 40675 cases and 64643 controls) and breast cancer (n = 122977 cases and 105974 controls) to investigate whether there is evidence that the association is partly due to shared genetic risk factors and whether there is evidence of a causal relationship. Using LD-score regression, we found that there is a small but significant genetic correlation (rG) between the 2 disorders (rG = 0.14, SE = 0.03, P = 4.75 × 10-8), indicating shared genetic risk factors. Using 142 genetic variants associated with schizophrenia as instrumental variables that are a proxy for having schizophrenia, we estimated a causal effect of schizophrenia on breast cancer on the observed scale as bxy = 0.032 (SE = 0.009, P = 2.3 × 10-4). A 1 SD increase in liability to schizophrenia increases risk of breast cancer 1.09-fold. In contrast, the estimated causal effect of breast cancer on schizophrenia from 191 instruments was not significantly different from zero (bxy = -0.005, SE = 0.012, P = .67). No evidence for pleiotropy was found and adjusting for the effects of smoking or parity did not alter the results. These results provide evidence that the previously observed association is due to schizophrenia causally increasing risk for breast cancer. Genetic variants may provide an avenue to elucidating the mechanism underpinning this relationship.

Original publication




Journal article


Schizophr Bull

Publication Date





1251 - 1256


Mendelian Randomization, causality, epidemiology, genetic correlation, pleiotropy, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Parity, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Risk Factors, Schizophrenia, Smoking