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Position:Breast Cancer

With October marking the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it should be noted that females with a deleterious gene mutation are being diagnosed with breast cancer almost eight years earlier than relatives of the previous generation who also had the disease, according to research from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. The findings could have an impact on how women at highest risk for the disease are counseled and even screened in the future, explains Jennifer Litton, assistant professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology.

"In our practice, we have noticed that women with a known deleterious BRCA gene mutation are being diagnosed earlier with the disease than their moms or aunts," notes Utton, the study's first author. "We looked at women who had been both treated and had their BRCA testing at MD Anderson to determine if what we were seeing anecdotally was consistent scientifically, a phenomenon known as anticipation."

It is estimated that five percent to 10% of all breast cancers are connected to either the BRCA1 or 2 mutation, both of which are associated with an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that females with BRCA1 or 2 have a 60% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, compared to a 12% risk for women in the general population.

Given their greater risk, women with BRCA mutations or whose mothers or aunts from either side of the family have the mutation are screened beginning at age 25. In 2007, as a complement to mammography, ACS guidelines added...

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