Black women at greater risk for certain cancers

Researchers have identified a genetic risk factor for two types of breast cancer that largely affects women of African descent. The cancers can carry a worse prognosis than other forms of the disease. However, the discovery could also lead to better screening and treatments for the cancers.

The researchers were searching for genetic risk factors associated with what is known as estrogen-receptive negative breast cancer. Women of African descent are more likely to have this type of breast cancer than women from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to the researchers. They are also are more at risk for an even more aggressive cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative means the breast cancer is not estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor, or Her2/neu caused breast cancer.

The researchers compared data of breast cancer in African American women and women with European ancestry who had triple-negative breast cancer.

That revealed that the genetic variant, or chromosome mutation known as 5p15, increases the chances of developing triple-negative tumors, especially for women under age 50.

The good news is that knowing the gene variant may someday lead to tests that can determine who is at greater risk of developing cancer. Fergus Couch, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the Mayo Clinic, and co-principal investigator explained that the region of the genome they studied has been the focus of investigations of other cancers as well, including serous ovarian cancer, glioma, and lung cancer.

“So, this might be a global marker for other cancers,” said Couch, whose research focuses on genetically inherited forms of cancer.

The researchers will continue the search for genetic risk factors for these aggressive cancers like triple-negative breast cancer which could lead to better cancer screening, earlier cancer detection, and new treatments.

“We plan to enlarge this study with other genome-wide research that is also focused on estrogen receptor-negative disease” said Christopher Haiman, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School and co-principal investigator for the study. “Identification of additional susceptibility regions for aggressive forms of breast cancer will continue to inform us about these tumors and, hopefully, provide new information that can be used for screening, prevention and targeted treatment.”

The study appeared in Nature Genetics.

Courtesy Healthy Living News

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