Breast cancer gene does not boost risk of death

Breast cancer survival 'unaffected' by presence of faulty gene

BRCA gene mutation has been associated with cancers such as breast cancer.

BRCA1 - Led Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy because of her risk of breast cancer.

BRCA2 - Mutations prevent DNA from repairing itself properly, leading to breast cancer.

The study included 2733 women from 127 hospitals in the United Kingdom who had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 or below.

"Women diagnosed with early breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation are often offered double mastectomies soon after their diagnosis or chemotherapy treatment" compared to non-mutation carriers, study co-author Diana Eccles of the University of Southampton said in a statement. Those who are non carriers of this mutation are not on the other hand.

"However, our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment".

The study involved 127 hospitals across the United Kingdom and included 2,733 women aged 18 to 40 who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. If they get cancer and have standard treatment, they live as long as breast cancer patients without the mutation.

In the survey, only 47 percent of lumpectomy patients, 67 percent of mastectomy patients, and 28 percent of women who had both procedures said they felt completely informed before they had these surgeries, Mitchell and colleagues found.

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The research, led by the University of Southampton, concludes that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more risky or aggressive than any other form of the disease. Most had chemotherapy, half has what's called breast-conserving surgery instead of a complete mastectomy, the other half had a full mastectomy and a very few did not have any surgery.

Breast cancer is the second-biggest cancer killer of American women, after lung cancer.

The records of all of these women were examined and followed up and it was noted that 678 of these women died eventually over the follow up period and of these 651 died due to breast cancer over the 8 years. BRCA gene mutation per se did not raise the risk of death among these women found the researchers on statistically analyzing these findings.

"The study found that there was no difference in overall survival two, five or ten years after diagnosis for women with and without a BRCA mutation", a press statement said.

In addition, a subgroup analysis of 558 women with triple-negative breast cancer suggested that women with a BRCA mutation may initially have a survival advantage during the few years after diagnosis.

But it is unlikely to affect the many women, like Miss Jolie, who choose to have surgery as a precaution when they find out they carry the mutated gene, in order to slash their chance of being diagnosed with cancer in the first place. This delay would not change their overall survival chances, say researchers.

'In the longer term, risk-reducing surgery should be discussed as an option for BRCA1 mutation carriers in particular, to minimise their future risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer. They were tested for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene faults using a blood sample. 1 in 400 individuals are said to have mutations in these genes wherein the corrections and repairs in the DNA are not made. This raises the risk of getting certain cancers such as breast and ovarian cancers.

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