People with certain genetic changes have a higher than normal chance of breast cancer. Researchers say they can lower the risk, sometimes by a lot.
Researchers believe that about 30% of breast cancer cases found in white women could have been prevented. Four preventative measures include not smoking, drinking little alcohol, keeping a healthy body weight, and skipping hormone replacement therapy.
Nilanjan Chatterjee from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health co-authored a report with his colleagues estimating that 28.9% of white women were at the lowest risk with these four factors. The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Associations JAMA Oncology.
Hopelessness often follows people who find they have a “cancer gene” and Chatterjee hopes that these findings offer hope to these people. Genetic risk to breast cancer is partly dependent on lifestyle and habits.
The study and conclusion cannot be generalized to the average person, yet.
The increase in frequency of DNA analysis is a result of increased ease and decreased price for the tests. This has allowed people to discover rare mutations in their gene that increase their chances of cancer.
This study included the analysis of more than 40,000 cases of women with breast cancer and other medical ailments. Researchers looked at 92 different common mutations that are known to raise the chances of breast cancer. The study did not look at the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes because they are the two best known and most studied breast cancer genes.
Although the BRCA genes are most known, the other 92 mutations account for more of the breast cancer cases than the BRCA genes.
There is hope that this model will serve as an aid for women, determining if women are at higher risk and should begin to receive mammograms at an earlier age.
This study will also help to enhance the breast cancer screening recommendations as it is primarily based on age at the moment.
More than 230,000 US women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, the American Cancer Society estimates. Of those 230,000 women, 40,000, or just over 17%, will die from the disease.
Outside experts, Dr. William Dupont, Dr. Jeffery Blume, Dr. Jeffrey Smith, believe that it is too early to use this study as an aid and that it should not serve in clinical decision making.
Women today use the Gail Method to calculate breast cancer risk. This method takes into account age, family history of breast cancer, pregnancy history, and race.