And indeed, two of these genes -- ADH1B and ADH1C -- were associated with a two-fold increase in breast cancer risk.
But the study does not prove a definite cause-and-effect link. "This is an association," Marian said. "This type of study is good for generating hypotheses. It's not a definite conclusion. It needs to be replicated by other studies to say for sure that what we found is there."
Another researcher urged caution in interpreting the results of both studies.
"These studies are too early for use in a clinical setting or to advance a public health message," said Dr. Peter Shields, co-author of the genetics study and deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
However, he added that the findings "really do advance science, and, with proper replication in other studies, then they may be highly clinically significant."
There's more on breast cancer at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Catalin Marian, M.D., Ph.D., research instructor, oncology department, cancer genetics and epidemiology division, and Peter Shields, M.D., deputy director, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; presentations, April 13, 2008, annual meeting, American Association for Cancer Research, San Diego
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