Breast cancer gene does not boost risk of death – study
PARIS, France – Young women with the BRCA gene mutation that prompted actress Angelina Jolie's pre-emptive and much-publicized double mastectomy are not more likely to die after a breast cancer diagnosis, scientists said Friday, January 12.
In fact, they may have a "survival advantage" over non-carriers if diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a form that is particularly hard to treat, a team wrote in the journal The Lancet Oncology.
"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.
"Our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment."
According to the American Cancer Society, women with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a 7-in-10 chance of getting breast cancer by the age of 80. They are also more likely to get it at a younger age than other women.
In 2013, Hollywood star Angelina Jolie announced she had had both breasts surgically removed as a preventative measure after tests revealed she carried the mutation, despite not having been diagnosed with cancer.
For the new study, Eccles and a team recruited 2,733 British women aged 18-40 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2008.
Twelve percent of the women had a BRCA mutation.
The team tracked the women's medical records for an average period of just over 8 years, and found that 651 of 678 total deaths were due to breast cancer.
"The study found that there was no difference in overall survival two, 5 or 10 years after diagnosis for women with and without a BRCA mutation," a press statement said.
In a subgroup of women with triple-negative breast cancer, those with a BRCA mutation had slightly higher survival rates for the first two years after diagnosis.
"In light of their findings the authors suggest that women with triple-negative breast cancer and a BRCA mutation who choose to delay additional surgery for 1-2 years to recover from their initial treatment should be reassured that this is unlikely to affect their long-term survival," the statement said.
"However, risk-reducing surgery will still likely be beneficial for BRCA mutation carriers to prevent another new breast or ovarian cancer from developing in the longer term."
While only about 5% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women younger than 40, a high proportion of deaths fall in this age category. – Rappler.com