Since the first link between blood type and cancer was described in 1953, numerous studies have sought to determine whether the histoblood ABO group is associated with tumorigenesis. In 2009, the first significant association between a SNP located within the ABO glycosyltransferase gene and increased risk of pancreatic cancer was reported. Here, we describe the history and possible functions of the histoblood ABO group and then provide evidence for a role of blood group antigens in the most common cancer types worldwide using both blood type and SNP data. We also explore whether confusion regarding the role of blood type in cancer risk may be attributable to heterogeneity within tumor types.
Lay abstract: ABO encodes the protein responsible for defining blood groups as A, B, AB or O. Despite over a century of investigation, it is not well known whether the blood group antigens have a function or if they contribute to human health. Over the last 60 years, associations between blood type and cancer risk have been reported, although the data have often been conflicting. To better understand the possible role of the ABO blood group in tumorigenesis, we review the data for the most common tumor types worldwide.