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Genetics and Breast Cancer

Researchers who study genetics and breast cancer have discovered that some inherited DNA changes may cause breast cancer in some families more frequently. DNA is made up of genes that control when a cell should grow, reproduce, and die. Tumor suppressors are special genes that slow the division and death of cells in the body. When genes are mutated, it can sometimes deactivate the tumor suppressor cells, causing normal cells to become cancerous cells.

Experts on genetics and breast cancer have found that some genetic mutations are passed down to offspring, thus putting a woman at greater risk of breast cancer if it runs in her family. Both men and women can inherit and pass on breast cancer-specific genetic mutations. Genetic mutations can also occur during a woman's life, thus, increasing her risk of breast cancer. For example, exposure to harmful substances such as Aldrin, Alachor, and Acetamide, as well as radiation, diet, smoking, and other environmental factors can increase a woman's risk of developing genetic mutations that cause breast cancer.

Isolation of Mutated Genes

Genetics and breast cancer studies have isolated two genes that, when mutated, cause breast cancer. Breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) are tumor suppressing genes that help to repair DNA and, thus, prevent tumor development. When these genes are mutated or do not function properly, a woman has a greater chance of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. According to genetics and breast cancer statistics, five percent of all breast cancer occurs in women with a BRCA1 mutation. Experts state that 20 percent of women with a BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer by age forty, 51 percent by age fifty, and 87 percent by age sixty. Women with BRCA mutations also have a 20 to 60 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Blood Test

There is a blood test available to test for defects in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This DNA analysis can detect any of the 2000 genetic mutations that can alter these two genes. When a woman tests positive for one of these genetic alterations, it does not mean that she will certainly develop breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. If a woman tests positive, it means that she is at greater risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer. One genetics and breast cancer study, conducted at Baylor College in Texas, discovered that a BRCA mutation involving the ATM (ataxia telangiectasias) protein might be linked to breast cancer.

Who Should Be Tested For A Genetic Disposition To Breast Cancer?

This is a controversial question among medical professionals. Many experts recommend that women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer should consider genetic testing. Women who are at a greater risk of breast cancer inevitably have many questions about genetic testing. Some women prefer not to know if they are at greater risk while others do. Genetic counselors can help to address the complicated questions surrounding genetics and breast cancer. There are ways that a woman at high risk can prevent breast cancer and facilitate early detection of breast cancer.

Contact A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Near You

If you or a loved one are a breast cancer survivor, please contact us to speak with a qualified surgeon who can discuss your breast recontruction options.