Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease to affect women. Fortunately, new genetic research may provide a better way to identify those at risk before a diagnosis.
Researchers have identified a genetic variant that results in less dense breast tissue, eliminating one of the key risk factors associated with breast cancer. The gene is present in women of Hispanic descent in varying proportions based on their ancestry.
Women whose genetic code shows the variant in question are between 40 and 80 percent less likely to contract breast cancer in their lifetime, depending on whether they inherited the code from one or both sides of their family.
While non-Hispanic women are less likely to benefit from the gene, the confirmation of this research could help doctors target screening and prevention measures more effectively toward women based on their respective level of risk. In addition, further research will lend insight into how the genetic variant actually protects carriers – ideally, a finding that doctors could then replicate in future preventive treatments.
Regardless of ethnic heritage, all women are encouraged to follow a recommended screening schedule including self-tests and mammograms. The National Cancer Institute has identified a list of risk factors as well as a risk assessment tool that women over 35 can use to estimate their risk of contracting breast cancer. (The online tool should not take the place of an exam by a licensed physician.)
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