After my first few postings introducing surname genetics (isonymy), I wanted to bring up a very important practical application of this research; the application of surname studies to cancer research. In a 1992 study on the potential genetic influence on certain cancers, Holloway and Sofear compared the rates of various cancers identified in Scottish males with the coefficent of relatedness (Random Isonymy / 2) derived from surname data. They were able to conclude that a strong genetic component underscores colon and prostate cancer, with a lesser genetic influence on stomach and rectal cancers. This study underscores just how useful surnames can be as simple, readily available markers of kinship.
Holloway, S.M. and Sofaer, J.A. 1992. Coefficents of relationship by isonymy among registrations for five common cancers is Scottish Males. Journal of Epidemiology and Comunity Health 46: 368-372.