A new study has found that a genetic mutation, already known to be more prevalent in Ashkenazi Jewish breast cancer patients, is also common in Hispanic and young African-American women with breast cancer.
The findings are based on a study of 3,181 breast cancer patients in Northern California. It showed that although Ashkenazi Jewish women with breast cancer had the highest rate of the BRCA1 mutation at 8.3 percent, Hispanic women with breast cancer were next most likely, with a rate of 3.5 percent.
Non-Hispanic whites with breast cancer showed a 2.2 percent rate, followed by 1.3 percent of African-American women of all ages and 0.5 percent in Asian-American women. Of the African-American breast cancer patients under age 35, 16.7 percent had the mutation.
Esther John, PhD, research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center and consulting associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford, lead author of the paper, said that the work marks the largest study to date to look at the prevalence of BRCA1 mutations among patients in the four ethnic and racial groups.
The researchers said that the information could help doctors decide which patients to refer to genetic counselling. They added that they hope the information prompts genetic counsellors to develop materials for discussing breast cancer risk in a culturally sensitive way and in languages other than English.
During the study, researchers found that although mutations can occur throughout the BRCA1 gene, the Hispanic women in the study were more likely to carry a particular mutation that's also common in Ashkenazi Jewish women. Other ethnic groups carried a wide range of different mutations.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.