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Breast cancer gene mutation more common in Hispanic, young black women, Stanford/NCCC study finds
Date:12/25/2007

women were more likely to carry a mutation, and therefore frequently referred these women to genetic counseling. What they didn't know is how women of different ethnic groups needed to be treated in terms of their BRCA1 status.

"Traditionally studies have focused on white women," said John. "There is a great need to study racial minorities in the United States."

The risk of a woman developing breast cancer sometime during her life is about one in eight. Although death rates from the disease are dropping, the American Cancer Society estimates that 40,000 women will die from the disease this year.

All people have the BRCA1 gene, which makes a protein that helps the cell repair its DNA. Women who inherit a mutation in that gene from either parent are less able to fix DNA damage and tend to accumulate mutations that lead to cancer. They have a roughly 65 percent risk of developing breast cancer and 39 percent risk of ovarian cancer. If one family member tests positive for a mutation, it can alert other women in the family to also get tested and to take preventive measures.

Without the information from this study, doctors have treated all women other than Ashkenazi Jews as having the same risk level for the mutation. Now doctors who see Hispanic or young African-American breast cancer patients have more information to guide their decisions about referring those women to genetic counseling or testing.

"The message is that these minority breast cancer patients may need screening in ways that we hadn't appreciated before," Whittemore said. She noted that Hispanic women in Northern California, where this study was conducted, derive from different countries than Hispanic women from the East Coast. For that reason, the findings may not apply to Hispanic people in other parts of the country.

The research team found a few other surprises in the data. One is that although mutations can occur throughout the BRCA1 gene, the His
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Contact: Amy Adams
amyadams@stanford.edu
650-723-3900
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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