Unique Genetic Risk Factors for Breast Cancer Found in African Ancestry Study

▴ Unique Genetic Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Disparities in genetic testing rates persist, with Black women less likely to undergo testing due to differences in physician recommendations and access to healthcare services, as highlighted by the society.

In a recent study published recently, researchers have identified twelve breast cancer genes specifically in women of African ancestry. This discovery has the potential to revolutionize our ability to predict breast cancer risks in this population and sheds light on important differences compared to women of European descent.

Traditionally, studies focused on identifying genetic mutations linked to breast cancer have predominantly targeted women of European ancestry. However, this new study has dived into the genetic makeup of over 40,000 women of African descent from the United States, Africa, and Barbados, including 18,034 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

The researchers highlighted significant findings, indicating that certain genetic mutations identified in this study were either previously unknown or not as strongly linked to breast cancer in other analyses. This suggests that genetic risk factors for breast cancer may vary between women of African and European ancestries.

Of particular note is the discovery of a newly identified mutation that showed an exceptionally strong association with breast cancer—a rarity in cancer genetics research, according to the study authors.

Interestingly, some genes known to increase breast cancer risk in white women did not show the same associations with breast cancer in women of African descent, highlighting the importance of studying diverse populations to capture the full spectrum of genetic influences on disease risk.

The disparity in breast cancer outcomes between Black and white women in the United States is well-documented. Black women exhibit higher rates of breast cancer before age 50, increased incidence of harder-to-treat breast cancers, and a significantly higher death rate from breast cancer compared to white women, as reported by the American Cancer Society.

Incorporating the newly identified breast cancer genes alongside established genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2—known to be linked with breast cancer across all populations—the researchers developed a more accurate breast cancer risk score tailored specifically for women of African ancestry.

The study revealed that six of the identified genes were associated with an elevated risk of triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of the disease. Previous research has shown that Black women have nearly a three-fold increased risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer compared to white women.

Women who carried all six high-risk gene variants identified in this study were found to be 4.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer compared to those without these genetic variants.

Despite these promising findings, further evaluation is needed to determine the clinical utility of these newly identified genetic variants before they can be incorporated into routine breast cancer risk assessment and genetic testing protocols, emphasized Dr. Wei Zheng, the lead researcher from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

The American Cancer Society advocates for genetic testing for all breast cancer patients, irrespective of race, as many genetic mutations associated with breast cancer risk in white women also hold true for Black women. However, disparities in genetic testing rates persist, with Black women less likely to undergo testing due to differences in physician recommendations and access to healthcare services, as highlighted by the society.

This research showcases the importance of studying diverse populations to enhance our understanding of genetic influences on breast cancer risk and to develop tailored strategies for risk assessment and prevention among women of African ancestry. As we continue to reveal the complexities of breast cancer genetics, advancements like these bring us closer to more personalized and effective approaches for breast cancer prevention and treatment.

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Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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