Breast cancer cases are on a constant rise and more alarmingly, the disease is striking younger women. According to recent studies conducted by Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas, women who have BRCA gene are being diagnosed with breast cancer eight years earlier than women with the same gene of previous generations. The results also stand true for women with ovarian cancers.
The lead author of the study, Jennifer Litton said that the find that women with the gene are younger when they are struck with the disease will help medical practitioners in providing better precautionary measures since women with the highest risk factors can be known more clearly. Dr. Litton is an assistant professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at MD Anderson’s. The knowledge of the gene will also be a help in the screening process for potential high risk women.
According the studies, it has been concluded that mutation of BRCA1 and 2 is the major cause for cancer in five to ten percent of women. Both these genes have been known to trigger ovarian and breast cancer in women. A number of women who has the gene were tested in the Anderson Center in order to assess the consistency of risk factors. The process of determining the risk factor is called Anticipation and the results showed that the risk is consistent. The study revealed that women with the gene are around 60% more likely to fall prey to the disease than those who do not have the gene. In general, a 12% risk of cancer is associated with normal women.
The study has prompted early testing of the disease for women with the gene. The best age for beginning diagnosis is 25. MRI scans along with mammography. In some cases, prophylactic mastectomy might also be necessary. The screening process has to begin on the basis of the youngest affected family member. The screening process has to begin at least five or ten years prior to the age of youngest cancer patient in the family. The testing is compulsory for women diagnosed with BRCA 1 or 2.
In the study, median age of patients was calculated to be 42. However, authors have suggested that further studies are required to find a correct correlation between enhanced risk in the current generation and cancer affected women of the previous generations. For women with BRCA gene 1, cancer diagnosis decreased by 6 years and for those with BRCA 2, the age decreased by 7.9 years.