Study casts light on breast-cancer gene Most women don't need to be tested for defect


SEATTLE -- Women who don't have a strong family history of breast cancer should not worry about being tested for one of the major breast-cancer genes, University of Washington researchers reported yesterday.

In the study, only 2.6 percent of women who already had the disease were found to have a defective BRCA1 gene, linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

Statistically, one in eight women in the United States develops breast cancer; experts estimate the disease will kill more than 43,500 this year.

The studies may indicate, however, that mutations in other, undiscovered genes may play a role in the disease. Scientists have found only one other gene linked to the disease: A defective BRCA2 has been found only about half as often as BRCA1 in families with a high incidence of the cancer.

Scientists at UW and other medical centers also confirmed with the study that a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer increases the odds of carrying the BRCA1 gene.

The lead author of the report in yesterday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association was Beth Newman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. UW researchers included Mary-Claire King, who first mapped BRCA1, and Hua Mu.

Both the UW study and one conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle went against a common notion that young women diagnosed with the disease were rather likely to carry the defective gene.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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