Hispanic Women More Likely To Have Genetic Mutation That Increases Chances Of Developing Breast, Ovarian Cancers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hispanic women have a higher chance than other women of having theBRCA1 genetic mutation, which increases the likelihood of developingbreast and ovarian cancers, according to a study published in theDec. 26 edition of the Journal of the American MedicalAssociation, HealthDay/AustinAmerican-Statesman reports (Stern, Reuters,12/25/07).

According to the HoustonChronicle, fewer than 10% of breast cancer cases areattributed to BRCA1 mutations (Grant, Houston Chronicle,12/26/07). However, women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 65% risk ofdeveloping breast cancer and a 39% risk of developing ovarian cancer,the San Jose Mercury Newsreports (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 12/26/07).

Researcher Esther John of the NorthernCalifornia Cancer Center and colleagues between 1996 and 2005analyzed records of more than 3,000 breast cancer patients in theU.S. who were diagnosed with the disease before they reached age 65(Reuters, 12/25/07).

According to the study:

  • 3.5% of Hispanic women; \t


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    2.2% of non-Hispanic white women; and


  • 0.5% of Asian women had a BRCA1 mutation. \t

While 1.3 % of black women had a BRCA1 mutation, 16.7% ofblack women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 35 had themutation, the study found.

The study confirmed previousfindings that the highest rate of 8.3% is among women of AshkenaziJewish ancestry. According to John, the prevalence of BRCA1 mutationsin younger black women with breast cancer could explain why theyoften have an aggressive form of the disease (HealthDay/AustinAmerican-Statesman, 12/26/07).

The type of BRCA1mutation varied by race and ethnic group, but some Hispanic womenwere found to have the same mutation as Ashkenazi Jewish women,according to the study (Houston Chronicle, 12/26/07).

Women who have a BRCA1 mutation are advised to undergoregular screenings for breast cancer or undergo preventivechemotherapy or surgery (Reuters, 12/25/07). BecauseBRCA1 mutations are rare, not all women should undergo testing forsuch mutations, John said. However, she said that women with a familyhistory of the disease or those who are diagnosed with the diseasebefore age 35 should consider testing (HealthDay/AustinAmerican-Statesman, 12/26/07).

Alice Whittemore, astudy author from StanfordUniversity, said the findings indicate "that these minoritybreast cancer patients may need screening in ways that we hadn'tappreciated before" (San Jose Mercury News,12/26/07). Only about 10% of testing for BRCA1 mutations occurs amongminority populations, according to an editorial -- by Dezheng Huo andOlufunmilayo Olopade, both of the Universityof Chicago -- that accompanied the study (Reuters,12/25/07).

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.