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Breast Cancer Gene Test May Reveal Lower Risk

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 9:42 AM EST
Category: None
Tags: FDA and Prescriptin Drugs, Medical Devices

Mutations to 2 breast cancer genes may carrier a lower risk of breast cancer than previously thought.


Women might breathe a little easier after this study on breast cancer risk says the estimates might be too high.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says testing for mutation in two breast cancer genes may actually reveal a lower risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70.

Mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been thought to predict a woman’s lifetime risk for developing breast cancer estimated to be 50 to 80 percent by the time she reaches 70, according to the American Society of Breast Surgeons.  5 to 10 percent of those are associated with hereditary predisposition.

A Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center physician and lead author, Dr. Colin Begg believes that a carrier of mutated BRCA 1 and BRCA1 genes runs a lifetime risk of closer to 36 to 52 percent.

2,000 women who had cancer by the time they were 55 or younger were included in the study funded by the National Cancer Institute. 181 of them carried mutations to BRCA1 or 2 genes. Researchers then looked at whether women in the patient's immediate family, mother, sister, daughter also had cancer.

For younger cancer patients, scientists found her relatives had a 52 percent chance of being diagnosed by age 70. That risk increases to 95 percent by age 80. 

Women who were age 45 or older when they were diagnosed had relatives with a 36 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70. That increases to 44 percent by age 80.

The study comes as Myriad Genetics Inc. is pushing to have women take a new test it is developing. 

Researchers did not use the Salt Lake City company’s test, but an independent one to determine which patients had mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

The study indicates there are other, yet unidentified, factors mutating the BRCA1 and 2 genes besides heredity.  

BRCA1 and 2 testing is recommended for women considered high-risk for cancer, that is they have it in their families.  The testing is not recommended for women in general who are worried about breast cancer but do not have a family history. For women with no family history the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is estimated to be 12 percent.

The test costs about $3,000 but is covered by insurance if there is a family history. #

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