#NewsDayTuesday: New study marks landmark progress in understanding breast cancer

By Elizabeth Kim

November 21, 2017

This week’s #NewsDayTuesday spotlights a new study showing progress in the fight against breast cancer. Read more in a CNN article posted last week. Photo credit: York College of PA

Breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer for women, some of them even need Home Care Assistance. You’ve likely come into contact with it through a friend, family member, or even yourself. But, there’s been some good news lately:

Earlier in October, a study found that fewer women are dying from breast cancer than ever before. And now, CNN reports that scientists have taken a huge leap forward in understanding the genetic causes of the disease.

Researchers from 300 institutions across the globe worked together to discover 72 previously unknown genetic mutations that lead to the development of breast cancer.

Using blood samples from nearly 300,000 women (about half of whom have had breast cancer) the researchers were able to look through and identify mutations that were reoccuring in women with breast cancer. With these 72 newly discovered mutations, the number of known cancer-causing variants has increased to nearly 180.

So how will this discovery affect women? “We were able to show for the first time that these risk genes are often the same ones that are mutated during the development of breast tumours, which tells us much more than we knew previously about the genetic mechanisms that may cause breast cancer,” said researcher Dr. Jonathan Beesley. “We think that this ability to pinpoint the genes associated with risk of breast cancer will eventually enable us to develop more effective screening interventions and even risk-reduction medications and treatments.”

Although this study was considerably expansive, it’s critical to note that a majority of the women who participated in this study were of European descent. Thus, there may be variants associated with cancers common in non-European populations that have not been accounted  for.

 

Take Action Challenge

  • The Susan G. Komen Global Initiative is dedicated to providing breast cancer relief across communities worldwide. Read more about their work here: https://ww5.komen.org
  • Support the World Health Organization (WHO) in their global cancer control programme for cancer education, prevention, and management. Learn how here: http://www.who.int/cancer/

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