Researchers Find Hispanic Women More Likely Than Thought To Have Genetic Mutation That Increases Chances of Developing Breast, Ovarian Cancers
Hispanic women have a higher chance than other women of having the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which increases the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancers, according to a study published in the Dec. 26 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, HealthDay/Austin American-Statesman reports (Stern, Reuters, 12/25/07).
According to the Houston Chronicle, fewer than 10% of breast cancer cases are attributed to BRCA1 mutations (Grant, Houston Chronicle, 12/26/07). However, women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 65% risk of developing breast cancer and a 39% risk of developing ovarian cancer, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 12/26/07).
Researcher Esther John of the Northern California Cancer Center and colleagues between 1996 and 2005 analyzed records of more than 3,000 breast cancer patients in the U.S. who were diagnosed with the disease before they reached age 65 (Reuters, 12/25/07).
According to the study:
- 3.5% of Hispanic women;
- 2.2% of non-Hispanic white women; and
- 0.5% of Asian women had a BRCA1 mutation.
While 1.3 % of black women had a BRCA1 mutation, 16.7% of black women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 35 had the mutation, the study found.
The study confirmed previous findings that the highest rate of 8.3% is among women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. According to John, the prevalence of BRCA1 mutations in younger black women with breast cancer could explain why they often have an aggressive form of the disease (HealthDay/Austin American-Statesman, 12/26/07).
The type of BRCA1 mutation varied by race and ethnic group, but some Hispanic women were found to have the same mutation as Ashkenazi Jewish women, according to the study (Houston Chronicle, 12/26/07).
Women who have a BRCA1 mutation are advised to undergo regular screenings for breast cancer or undergo preventive chemotherapy or surgery (Reuters, 12/25/07). Because BRCA1 mutations are rare, not all women should undergo testing for such mutations, John said. However, she said that women with a family history of the disease or those who are diagnosed with the disease before age 35 should consider testing (HealthDay/Austin American-Statesman, 12/26/07).
Alice Whittemore, a study author from Stanford University, said the findings indicate "that these minority breast cancer patients may need screening in ways that we hadn't appreciated before" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/26/07). Only about 10% of testing for BRCA1 mutations occurs among minority populations, according to an editorial -- by Dezheng Huo and Olufunmilayo Olopade, both of the University of Chicago -- that accompanied the study (Reuters, 12/25/07).
The study is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.