Third breast cancer gene identified

A team of Danish researchers has isolated a third gene linked to the development of breast cancer

Danish researchers have isolated a new gene responsible for breast cancer. A mutation of the gene can triple the risk of developing breast cancer.

Women have been examined for mutations of two so-called breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, for years. A mutation of the genes has corresponded to a 70 to 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Mutation of the newly discovered CHEK2 gene results in a similar development of cancer, according to a study by Danish researchers.

'In comparison to the two others, it is much easier to demonstrate mutations in this gene,' Børge G. Nordestgaard, a professor and doctor at Herlev Hospital, told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende. 'Mutation can be identified with a simple test which now only takes a day.'

The study used information from some 9000 Danes who have been participating in the Copenhagen City Heart Study since 1976.

The research team is scheduled to release their finishings in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

As with BRCA1 and BRCA2, only women with a history of breast cancer in the family and men who have already developed breast cancer are tested for a mutation of the CHEK2 gene.

'There is a real possibility for prevention. We can clearly see whether the gene has mutated and we can combine the test with the frequent breast cancer screenings we already provide for women with a family history of breast cancer,' said Nordestgaard.

Patients with identified mutations of the BRCA gene are routinely offered examinations with screenings and mammograms to monitor whether cancer is developing.

One half percent, or some 135,000, of all women in Denmark have a three-fold risk of developing breast cancer, according to the CHEK2 gene study. Cancer risk among younger women was noticeably lower but increased to one in four if women have undergone hormone treatment. Overweight women or those over 60 years of age also had a one in four chance of developing breast cancer as a result of the mutating gene.

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