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Black Women May Have Higher Risk for Gene Linked to Breast Cancer

Each year more than 231,000 American women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Many more also find their doctors have discovered the cancer in its earliest forms. And, while women of Caucasian descent are more likely to develop the disease by a slight margin than their black counterparts, researchers have uncovered an unusual finding in relation to the genes that are believed to be linked to the disease. It seems young black women have a higher rate of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations than was previously thought.

The research involved 396 black women in Florida who were all diagnosed with invasive breast cancer before the age of 50. Of these women, 12.4 percent had either BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. These mutations normally are a genetic link that happens to be found in those with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer. What researchers found, however, is that about 40 percent of the women in the study who tested positive for one of the two gene mutations had no family ties to cancer.

Conducted by researchers at Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center, the study sheds light on the fact that family history may not always serve as a portent for cancer. All black women who test positive for invasive breast cancer at a young age, researchers say, may find it beneficial to be tested for the genes.

Breast cancer is one of the leading cancer killers of women in the United States and beyond. Self-examinations, routine physicals and regular mammograms can lead to early detection and potentially life-saving treatment. Women who are concerned about breast cancer are urged to discuss their risks with their healthcare providers. While black women are at a slightly lower risk than white, the reality is breast cancer does not really discriminate in its targets.

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