The prevalence of the BRCA1 mutation in young black women with breast cancer was also unexpected, since the overall rate of the mutation is low among black women of all ages, John said.
However, this finding could explain why when young black women get breast cancer it tends to be an aggressive form of the disease, which is consistent with cancers that involve BRCA1 mutations.
John noted that, because BRCA1 mutations are rare, not all women need to be tested for mutations. However, women who have a family history of breast cancer or who are diagnosed with breast cancer when they are under 35 might want to be tested, she said. "Women in all ethnic/racial populations would benefit from testing," she added.
One expert believes the findings in the study mirror what she has been seeing in a diverse urban population of women with breast cancer.
"This study supports what I've been finding in my clinical practice," said Dr. Christine Pellegrino, a breast cancer specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Pellegrino believes in genetic screening for all women who develop breast cancer early. "There should be a vigorous, well-defined, screening procedure for the female relatives of these women," she said. "There should be widespread use of genetic counseling in these young patients."
Young women who have the BRCA1 mutation and have had breast cancer are at risk for a recurrence of their cancer and also of developing ovarian cancer, Pellegrino said. "These women need to be closely monitored," she added.
Another expert agrees that most younger women with breast cancer have a genetic mutation, regardless of their ethnic or racial background.
"Whatever your ethnicity or your race, if you have a high-risk profile -- that is, early breast cancer -- it predicts the likelihood of genetic mutations across all ethnicities and races," said Dr. Jef
All rights reserved