STANFORD, Calif. - A genetic mutation already known to be more common in Ashkenazi Jewish breast cancer patients is also prevalent in Hispanic and young African-American women with breast cancer, according to one of the largest, multiracial studies of the mutation to date.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Northern California Cancer Center reported the finding from a study of 3,181 breast cancer patients in Northern California. It revealed that although Ashkenazi Jewish women with breast cancer had the highest rate of the BRCA1 mutation at 8.3 percent, Hispanic women with breast cancer were next most likely, with a rate of 3.5 percent. Non-Hispanic whites with breast cancer showed a 2.2 percent rate, followed by 1.3 percent of African-American women of all ages and 0.5 percent in Asian-American women. Of the African-American breast cancer patients under age 35, 16.7 percent had the mutation.
The work, which will be published in the Dec. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the largest study to date to look at the prevalence of BRCA1 mutations among patients in the four ethnic and racial groups, said lead author Esther John, PhD, research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center and consulting associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford.
The information could help doctors decide which patients to refer to genetic counseling, the researchers said. They added that they hope the information prompts genetic counselors to develop materials for discussing breast cancer risk in a culturally sensitive way and in languages other than English.
"If a woman has breast cancer she may ask the question, 'Could I be a carrier for a BRCA1 mutation" If I am, my daughters and sons need to know it,'" said senior author Alice Whittemore, PhD, professor of health research and policy at Stanford. She said that until now, doctors knew only that Ashkenazi Jewish
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Stanford University Medical Center