Breast cancer polygenic risk scores derived in White European populations are not calibrated for women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent

Eleanor Roberts, Elke M van Veen, Helen Byers, Ofra Barnett-Griness, Naomi Gronich, Flavio Lejbkowicz, Mila Pinchev, Miriam J Smith, Anthony Howell, William G Newman, Elaine F Harkness, Adam R Brentnall, Jack Cuzick, Gad Rennert, Sacha J Howell, D Gareth Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) are a major component of accurate breast cancer (BC) risk prediction but require ethnicity-specific calibration. Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) population is assumed to be of White European (WE) origin in some commercially available PRSs despite differing effect allele frequencies (EAFs). We conducted a case-control study of WE and AJ women from the Predicting Risk of Cancer at Screening Study. The Breast Cancer in Northern Israel Study provided a separate AJ population–based case-control validation series. Methods: All women underwent Illumina OncoArray single-nucleotide variation (SNV; formerly single-nucleotide polymorphism [SNP]) analysis. Two PRSs were assessed, SNV142 and SNV78. A total of 221 of 2243 WE women (discovery: cases = 111; controls = 110; validation: cases = 651; controls = 1772) and 221 AJ women (cases = 121; controls = 110) women were included from the UK study; the Israeli series consisted of 2045 AJ women (cases = 1331; controls = 714). EAFs were obtained from the Genome Aggregation Database. Results: In the UK study, the mean SNV142 PRS demonstrated good calibration and discrimination in WE population, with mean PRS of 1.33 (95% CI 1.18-1.48) in cases and 1.01 (95% CI 0.89-1.13) in controls. In AJ women from Manchester, the mean PRS of 1.54 (1.38-1.70) in cases and 1.20 (1.08-1.32) in controls demonstrated good discrimination but overestimation of BC relative risk. After adjusting for EAFs for the AJ population, mean risk was corrected (mean SNV142 PRS cases = 1.30 [95% CI 1.16-1.44] and controls = 1.02 [95% CI 0.92-1.12]). This was recapitulated in the larger Israeli data set with good discrimination (area under the curve = 0.632 [95% CI 0.607-0.657] for SNV142). Conclusion: AJ women should not be given BC relative risk predictions based on PRSs calibrated to EAFs from the WE population. PRSs need to be recalibrated using AJ-derived EAFs. A simple recalibration using the mean PRS adjustment ratio likely performs well.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100846
JournalGenetics in medicine : official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics
Issue number9
Early online date12 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Breast cancer
  • Early detection
  • Ethnicities
  • Polygenic risk scores


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