Scientists Find Cancer-Causing Mutation By Scouring Mormon Family Tree

A new finding could save countless lives outside of the church's current congregation.

June 26, 2017 3:11 pm
Mormon Cancer Research
When Mormons moved from Illinois to Utah, they kept detailed genealogical records that would later be used in cancer research. (Getty Images)

Mormons have held a secret about cancer for years—without even knowing it.

By scouring the famed genealogy of the Mormon Church, scientists have identified genetic mutations tied to cancer that could save the lives of current members of the congregation.

While the markers were found in Mormon families, there’s research suggesting the database could have huge benefits for the rest of the world as well. APC, for example, is a mutation found in 80 percent of people that get colon cancer.

Because the church practices post-mortem baptisms, many lineages have been mapped out in great detail in order to provide names for the rituals. As a result, it’s created one of the largest databases of genealogical information in the world, according to The Atlantic.

Researchers from the University of Utah have spent the last 30 years studying various members of the Mormon Church. They combined the ancestry data with a cancer registry to create the Utah Population Database that comprised a total of 1.6 million people, dating back eight generations.

The synthesis of this data has identified markers for numerous genetic mutations that are common in certain lineages including APC, the colon cancer-causing mutation, and BRAC1, which is tied to an aggressive form of breast cancer.

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