Medicine

Don't delay mammograms! Detect breast cancer in the early stages

Don't delay mammograms! Detect breast cancer in the early stages

The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 breast cancer genetic mutations appear at a higher rate in the genes of Ashkenazi Jewish women.

'As well as identifying new genetic variants, we have also confirmed many that we had previously suspected. The researchers found that non-cancerous breast tissue had more of a certain type of bacteria, and the cancerous tissue had other types that were elevated.

A further seven genes were identified specifically in association with breast cancers that lacked oestrogen receptors, which don't tend to respond to hormone based therapies. In fact, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in 2017.

"Information on these variants could be combined with other strong breast cancer risk factors, such as age, family history and mammographic density to provide more precise estimates of risk", said Associate Professor Roger Milne, epidemiology director of Cancer Council Victoria. If their theory is proven, it may explain why the majority of breast cancers have no genetic ties. "Imagine if we could, instead of giving chemotherapy, that not only hits the cancer, but every cell in the body, imagine if we could just give something that targets the cancer, wherever it may be, breast or otherwise", says Dr. Eng. We have patients that have come here that have been diagnosed with breast cancer and they are our friends and family. We believe that a substantial breast cancer burden may be prevented through lifestyle modification and this is what we call primary prevention.

The studies involved collaborators from 300 different institutions, including the University of Cambridge, University Laval in Quebec and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

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The newly identified risk regions almost double the number that are already known, thereby bringing the number of known common variants associated with breast cancer to around 180. "There's been a lot of research trying to figure out what that something else is".

By analysing the 180 regions of the genome where are located some of the variations that predispose to breast cancer, it will be possible to determine the risk of a woman developing this cancer.

"We knew about 100 before, it is a big contribution but probably more important than the number is the methods we developed", she said. Vitamin D levels also have a significant bearing on the development of breast cancer, "Higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women with low levels of the vitamin".

How much can the newly identified genes predict about breast cancer risk?


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