What your blood type can tell about your health

Blood types are genetic and are not something we can change. But learning how they affect different disease risks can improve our understanding of how and why people develop different health problems. credit: Dusan Petkovic / shutterstock

Most people don’t think about their blood type until they need surgery or are planning to donate blood. But we can learn more from our blood type than whether we can safely accept a blood transfusion from a donor. Using large, population-wide surveys, researchers have found that certain blood types are associated with a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, says hematologist Raymond Comenzo, MD, professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and medical director of the blood bank. are connected. and the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory at Tufts Medical Center.

“This is not the kind of work that can guide clinical decision-making for a specific patient,” Comenzo says. “But these linkages may provide avenues for further research to better understand these diseases and the risks for different populations.”

There are four major blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Our blood type is based on specific antigens, which are molecules that provoke an immune response, that are present on the outside of our red blood cells. For example, a person with B blood has B antigens on their red blood cells. This means that their body will recognize other B antigens as safe and will not react to them. But if their body encounters an A antigen from transfused blood, it will immediately try to destroy those cells as if they were an infection. People with AB blood have both A and B antigens, and people with O blood have neither.

Blood types are genetic; They result from a variation in a gene in our body known as the ABO gene and they are not something we can change. But learning how they affect different disease risks can improve our understanding of how and why people develop different health problems.

  • cancer. Research shows that people with type A blood have a higher risk of developing certain colon cancers. Bacterial infections from Helicobacter pylori are more common in patients who have type A blood, and these infections can lead to stomach ulcers, inflammation, and sometimes cancer, Comenzo says. H. pylori may also be associated with higher rates of pancreatic cancer in blood types A, B and AB.
  • These three blood types may also affect the risk of other cancers. “For patients who have type A, B, or AB blood, the ABO gene may also play a role in increasing the risk of certain cancers, particularly lung, breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer,” says Comenzo. But researchers still aren’t sure how they’re connected.
  • heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, A, B, and AB blood types are associated with a higher risk of heart attack due to coronary artery disease than the O blood type. In particular, people with AB blood appear to be at highest risk. These blood types have also been linked to higher rates of clotting disorders, which is potentially related.
  • stroke. A recent study found that people with blood type A were slightly more likely to have a stroke before age 60 than people with blood type O. It has to do with how the different types of blood contribute to the clotting factors of the blood.
  • Mosquitoes and Malaria. In laboratory experiments, mosquitoes prefer to feed on people with type O blood, although other genetic factors play a role as well. Fortunately, having type O blood helps protect people from the most serious effects of the mosquito-borne disease malaria.
  • COVID-19. In a large study of European patients, analysis suggested that patients with blood type O had a slightly lower risk of dying from COVID-19.

“Certainly this was data from before we had vaccines,” says Comenzo. “It doesn’t really translate into a risk for an individual patient, because the relative risk is so small.”

Understanding how different blood types may contribute to these risks may help improve how we identify and manage different diseases at a population level. But you shouldn’t worry too much about different people suddenly having special risks associated with their blood type, Comenzo says. Many of these differences in risk are small, and patients concerned about their health should focus on risk factors they can control.

“There are many ways that people who have these blood types can reduce their risk,” says Comenzo. “And that’s with exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, and similar lifestyle changes.”

Provided by Tufts University

Citation: What your blood group can tell about your health (2023, January 25) Retrieved on January 25, 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-01-blood-health.html

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