A high percentage of African-American women with breast cancer who were evaluated at a university cancer-risk clinic were found to carry inherited genetic mutations that increase their risk for breast cancer.
The finding suggests that inherited mutations may be more common than anticipated in this understudied group and may partially explain why African-Americans more often develop early onset and “triple-negative” breast cancer, an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of the disease.
It also demonstrates the potential benefits of increased access to genetic counseling and testing for women with breast cancer and their close relatives. Through these services, family members who are found to share the same genetic risk factor for breast cancer can be offered personalized strategies for early detection and prevention of breast cancer.
“Our study confirms the importance of screening for mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes in all African-American breast cancer patients diagnosed by age 45, those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or with triple-negative breast cancer before age 60,” said study author Jane Churpek, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine. “This could identify at-risk family members in time for life-saving interventions and help prevent future cancers for the patients as well.”