Link between breast and ovarian cancer discovered


Research has shown that women with breast cancer are more likely than others to also have ovarian cancer. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have now shown that, at least in that country, the women who contract ovarian cancer actually live with a Western Swedish genetic mutation which is also behind the breast cancer.

The study shows that the increased risk of ovarian cancer is linked to a known mutation in women with breast cancer in Western Sweden. The mutation, identified as BRCA1, originated with a distant forefather in Western Sweden which is why there is a geographic limitation to the mutation. Not surprisingly, when there are multiple women in a family who have breast and/or ovarian cancer, the BRCA1 mutation is usually present, especially if the women are young, under 50 years old.

“Our previous research has showed that Western Swedish women with breast cancer are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women diagnosed with breast cancer in other parts of the country,” says Per Karlsson, associate professor from the Department of Oncology and leader of the research team at the Cancer Genetics Clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Seven hundred women in Sweden are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. About 5% are women who previously had breast cancer and all have the BCRA1 mutation. The research will help doctors identify among women who have breast cancer, those who are likely to suffer ovarian cancer and those who are not. Early awareness and treatment can help save lives and preserve fertility. More specific screening in the future may help these women before they contract any disease at all.

If the link between breast and ovarian cancer has been proven in Sweden to result from a genetic mutation, not an environmental issue, a lifestyle issue, or resulting from physiological weakness related to the initial breast cancer - could it be true in other parts of the world as well? Further research is necessary and advances in medical screening will eventually answer these questions.

Source: Medical News Today, University of Gothenburg


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