Cancer caused by BRCA gene less unsafe than thought

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The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations increase a woman's risk of breast cancer by four-to-eightfold.

The research, led by the University of Southampton, concludes that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more risky or aggressive than any other form of the disease. "Any relationship will have a major health impact", Øjvind Lidegaard, MD, DMSc, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, told Cancer Therapy Advisor. Between 45 percent and 90 percent of women with a BRCA mutation develop breast cancer, compared with about 12.5 percent of women in the general population. What's more, carrying these mutations might, in fact, boost the odds of beating cancer if the diagnosis is triple-negative breast cancer.

For this study, researchers followed more than 2,700 women recruited from more than a hundred British hospitals for almost a decade. This action prevents DNA inside BRCA-mutated cancer cells from being repaired, which can stop tumor growth. Most importantly, they uncovered that there was no difference in overall survival two, five, or ten years after diagnosis for women with and without a BRCA mutation. About 12 percent of the patients had a BRCA mutation, yet again confirming the association between this "faulty gene" and breast cancer.

The researchers, who looked at nearly 3,000 women, also found outcomes were the same whatever kind of treatment women had - including mastectomies.

"Women diagnosed with early breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation are often offered double mastectomies soon after their diagnosis or chemotherapy treatment" compared to non-mutation carriers, study co-author Diana Eccles of the University of Southampton said in a statement.

A study has found, however, that it has no effect on survival rates among young women.

This means that breast cancer patients can wait and see how they feel about things and how their health is before they decide whether to have more surgery - for instance, to remove the healthy breast to lower any risk that breast cancer might return in that one. This surgery did not appear to improve their chances of survival at the 10-year mark, according to the findings published in The Lancet Oncology.

"In the longer term, risk-reducing surgery should be discussed as an option for BRCA1 mutation carriers in particular, to minimise their future risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer". They are also more likely to get it at a younger age than other women.

Women with the gene faults are advised to have regular screening for breast cancer and some, such as Angelina Jolie, choose to have preventative surgery, such as a double mastectomy, to limit their chances of breast cancer diagnosis.

Women who have BRCA mutations do as well after treatment for breast cancer as other patients, British researchers reported Thursday.

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