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Genes appear to contribute to urinary incontinence in women

08 May 2020

Genetics appears to have a role in continence as a recent study provides initial evidence of genetic associations for urinary incontinence.

Studies that have gathered genetic data and detailed information on urinary and faecal incontinence are lacking. To address this, the authors generated genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism data from participants of the Nurses’ Health Studies. These participants provided longitudinal urinary and faecal incontinence information via questionnaires.

Those with urinary incontinence (n=6,120) had at least weekly episodes of urinary incontinence reported on several questionnaires (three or four across 12–16 years), while controls (n=4,811) had few or no events reported. Cases in women were classified into stress (n=1,809), urgency (n=1,942) and mixed (n=2,036) subtypes.

Moreover, participants with faecal incontinence (n=4,247) had at least monthly faecal incontinence reported on most questionnaires, while controls (n=11,634) reported no cases. A genome-wide association study was conducted for each incontinence outcome.

Eight single nucleotide polymorphisms were found to be significantly associated (p<5×10-8) with urinary incontinence located in two loci, chromosomes 8q23.3 and 1p32.2. The urinary incontinence subtype analyses showed no genome-wide substantial findings, but the significant associations for overall urinary incontinence were stronger for urgency and mixed subtypes than for stress.

Furthermore, no single nucleotide polymorphism achieved genome-wide significance for faecal incontinence, but four single nucleotide polymorphisms had p<10-6.

Further research is warranted to replicate these findings and identify additional risk variants, according to the authors, noting that urinary and faecal incontinence are common disorders in women that negatively impact quality of life.

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