A gene that’s present in the extra chromosome people with Down syndrome have protects this population from getting many types of cancers, according to a study published in the journal Nature Wednesday.

For all the health issues that people with Down syndrome are known to have — heart problems and Alzheimer’s disease, among others — people in this population rarely get cancer. Their mortality rate from the disease is less than 10 percent that of the rest of the population. Now scientists have some clues as to why.

The answer lies in a gene called Dscr1, which is one of the genes present in the Down syndrome causing chromosome 21. Since people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of this chromosome, they also have an extra copy of Dscr1. Researchers studied the gene in mice with human cells and found that it limits the growth of blood vessels that tumors feed on.

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“This is a big finding,” study author Sandra Ryeom, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston in Massachusetts, told Nature. “It offers us all these new targets for cancer therapy.”