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Polygenic and clinical risk scores and their impact on age at onset and prediction of cardiometabolic diseases and common cancers


Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) have shown promise in predicting susceptibility to common diseases1,2,3. We estimated their added value in clinical risk prediction of five common diseases, using large-scale biobank data (FinnGen; n = 135,300) and the FINRISK study with clinical risk factors to test genome-wide PRSs for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, breast cancer and prostate cancer. We evaluated the lifetime risk at different PRS levels, and the impact on disease onset and on prediction together with clinical risk scores. Compared to having an average PRS, having a high PRS contributed 21% to 38% higher lifetime risk, and 4 to 9 years earlier disease onset. PRSs improved model discrimination over age and sex in type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, breast cancer and prostate cancer, and over clinical risk in type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and prostate cancer. In all diseases, PRSs improved reclassification over clinical thresholds, with the largest net reclassification improvements for early-onset coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation and prostate cancer. This study provides evidence for the additional value of PRSs in clinical disease prediction. The practical applications of polygenic risk information for stratified screening or for guiding lifestyle and medical interventions in the clinical setting remain to be defined in further studies.

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Fig. 1: Adjusted survival curves from Cox proportional hazards models showing the cumulative risk of disease by PRS category in FinnGen (n = 135,300 individuals).
Fig. 2: The proportions of early- and late-onset cases with high clinical risk, high polygenic risk or neither.

Data availability

The FinnGen data may be accessed through Finnish Biobanks’ FinnBB portal ( and THL Biobank data may be accessed through THL Biobank (

Code availability

The full genotyping and imputation protocol for FinnGen is described at


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We thank S. Kivikko, H.-Y. Shen and U. Tuomainen for management assistance. The FINRISK analyses were conducted using the THL biobank permission for project BB2015_55.1. The FINRISK data used for the research were obtained from THL Biobank. For the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL)-driven FinnGen preparatory project (here called FinnGen), all patients and control subjects had provided informed consent for biobank research, based on the Finnish Biobank Act. Alternatively, older cohorts were based on study-specific consents and later transferred to the THL Biobank after approval by Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health. Recruitment protocols followed the biobank protocols approved by Valvira. The Ethics Review Board of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa approved the FinnGen study protocol no. HUS/990/2017. The FinnGen preparatory project is approved by THL, approval number THL/2031/6.02.00/2017, amendments THL/341/6.02.00/2018, THL/2222/6.02.00/2018 and THL/283/6.02.00/2019. The following biobanks are acknowledged for collecting the FinnGen project samples: Auria Biobank (, THL Biobank (, Helsinki Biobank (, Northern Finland Biobank Borealis (, Finnish Clinical Biobank Tampere (, Biobank of Eastern Finland (, Central Finland Biobank (, Finnish Red Cross Blood Service Biobank ( We thank all study participants for their generous participation in FINRISK and FinnGen. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. This work was supported by the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research (to S.R., V.S. and A.P.); Sigrid Jusélius Foundation (to S.R. and A.P.); University of Helsinki HiLIFE Fellow grants 2017–2020 (to S.R.); Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics (grant number 312062 to S.R., 312074 to A.P., 312075 to M.D.); Academy of Finland (grant number 285380 to S.R., 128650 to A.P.); The Finnish Innovation Fund Tekes (grant number 2273/31/2017 to E.W.); Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant number 667301 (COSYN) to A.P.); Ida Montin Foundation (to P.R.); Doctoral Programme in Population Health, University of Helsinki (to P.R.); and Emil Aaltonen Foundation (to P.R.). The FinnGen project is funded by two grants from Business Finland (HUS 4685/31/2016 and UH 4386/31/2016) and nine industry partners (AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Celgene, Genentech, GSK, MSD, Pfizer and Sanofi). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information





S.R. and N.M. conceived and designed the study. N.M. and P.R. carried out the statistical and computational analyses with advice from S.R., J.T.K., E.W., J.V.L., A.A.-O., M.D., V.S., B.M.N. and A.P. Quality control of the data was carried out by N.M., A.S.H., T.T.J.K., M.K., J.K. and P.P. The manuscript was written and revised by all of the co-authors. All co-authors have approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Samuli Ripatti.

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Competing interests

A.P. is a member of the Pfizer Genetics Scientific Advisory Panel. V.S. has participated in a conference trip sponsored by Novo Nordisk and received an honorarium for participating in an advisory board meeting (unrelated to the present study). V.S. also has research collaboration with Bayer Ltd (unrelated to the present study). B.M.N. is a member of the scientific advisory board at Deep Genomics and a consultant for Camp4 Therapeutics, Takeda Pharmaceutical and Biogen.

Additional information

Peer review information Kate Gao was the primary editor on this article and managed its editorial process and peer review in collaboration with the rest of the editorial team.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Investigating goodness-of-fit by polygenic risk score deciles in FinnGen (n = 135,300). Y-axis represents the expected and observed risks in each decile.

Goodness-of-fit test for the Cox proportional hazards model with R package survMisc, following the methodology in May & Hosmer (2004).41 Error bars for the expected counts represent the 95% confidence intervals.

Extended Data Fig. 2 With any breast cancer as the outcome in FinnGen (n = 135,300), adjusted survival curves for estrogen receptor-specific polygenic risk scores (PRS).

The PRS for any breast cancer showed high correlation with the estrogen receptor-positive PRS (Pearson correlation r = 0.93) and moderate correlation with estrogen receptor-negative PRS (r = 0.54).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Difference in age at disease onset estimates across polygenic risk score categories in FinnGen (n = 135,300).

CHD = coronary heart disease, AF = atrial fibrillation or flutter, T2D = type 2 diabetes. The estimands are restricted mean survival times (RMST) for age at onset, and the error bars represent their 95% confidence intervals. Incident and prevalent cases included. All tests were two-tailed.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Difference in age at disease onset estimates by sex, across polygenic risk score categories (FinnGen, n = 135,300).

CHD = coronary heart disease, AF = atrial fibrillation or flutter, T2D = type 2 diabetes. The estimands are restricted mean survival times (RMST) for age at onset, and the error bars represent their 95% confidence intervals. Incident and prevalent cases included. All tests were two-tailed.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Correlation between polygenic and clinical risk.

PRS = polygenic risk score, CHD = coronary heart disease, AF = atrial fibrillation or flutter, T2D = type 2 diabetes. Sample size in FINRISK (CHD, n = 20,165; AF, n = 21,030; T2D n = 10,561) and in FinnGen (breast cancer, n = 37,841; prostate cancer n = 48,851), using respective incident disease cases and controls. Correlation was assessed with Pearson correlation.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Adjusted survival curves in FINRISK, showing cumulative risk of incident disease in by polygenic risk score (PRS) categories.

The FINRISK cohorts (total n = 21,813) comprised of 2,197 incident cases of CHD, 1,431 cases of AF, 2,516 cases of T2D, 404 cases of breast cancer, and 444 cases of prostate cancer. Only incident cases included.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Manhattan plot (A) and quantile-quantile plot (B) for the genome-wide association study (n = 408,961 from UK Biobank) for PheCode 411 (Ischemic heart disease) by Zhou et al.

For the GWAS, they used a generalized mixed model implemented in SAIGE.36 These summary statistics were used for constructing our polygenic risk score for coronary heart disease36.

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Mars, N., Koskela, J.T., Ripatti, P. et al. Polygenic and clinical risk scores and their impact on age at onset and prediction of cardiometabolic diseases and common cancers. Nat Med 26, 549–557 (2020).

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