Genetics make up just small portion of cancer causes _lowres

Associated Press/U.S. National Cancer Institute photo -- Humans have 46 chromosomes, as seen in the image from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Each chromosome contains genes, but genes comprise only 2 percent of DNA. But many worry that those genes could lead to a cancer diagnosis.

The recent article discussing using DNA as a medical tool to assist in cancer prediction in women was seriously misleading. It gave the impression that mutations of the BRCA genes only lead to significantly higher incidences of breast cancer in women. The mutations of the BRCA genes can lead to higher incidences of BOTH breast cancer AND ovarian cancer. Once again the little discussed cancer stepchild. While it is estimated that 72 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 72, it is also estimated that 44 percent will develop ovarian cancer by age 80. This 44 percent stands in sharp contrast with the estimate that only 1.3 percent of the general population will develop ovarian cancer without the mutation.

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Since there are no preventive screenings for ovarian cancer as there are for breast cancer (mammograms), doctors just sweep it under the rug and don’t inform women about surgical options such as a prophylactic hysterectomy which might decrease their risk of ovarian cancer. Therefore it is important for women with a family history of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer to go and consult with a gynecological oncologist in addition to their regular OB-GYN. My wife had a family history of breast cancer but was never informed about genetic testing and the BRCA gene mutation possibility until it was too late. She had a normal mammogram when she was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer. She inherited the increased ovarian cancer risk from the BRCA1 mutation and while we were vigilant about breast cancer we knew nothing about the ovarian cancer risk. High-risk breast cancer patients need to seriously consider the BRCA screening.

Jim Anderson

retired educator

Ponchatoula