Black Women at Higher Risk for Developing Aggressive Breast Cancer

Black women diagnosed with breast cancer at or below age 50 have a much higher instance of BRCA mutation.

Black women diagnosed with breast cancer at or below age 50 have a much higher instance of BRCA mutation.

If you are a black woman under the age of 50 diagnosed with breast cancer, then you probably have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation, according to a recent study.

Scientists at the Moffitt Cancer Center discovered that black women diagnosed with breast cancer at or below age 50 have a much higher instance of BRCA mutation than previously reported among young white women with breast cancer.

While the reason for this disparity between black and white women remains unclear, the fact remains that black women are at higher risk for developing aggressive forms of breast cancer due to these mutations.

In order to test if the mutation in the BRCA gene could account for the higher rate of aggressive breast cancers among young black women, researchers analyzed BRCA mutation frequency and family history in 396 black women in Florida diagnosed with invasive breast cancer below the age of 50. Of the participants studied, 12.4% had mutations in either BRCA1 or BRCA2.

In addition to these findings, the study also indicated that family history was not a good predictor for those at risk of carrying a BRCA mutation.

“Our results suggest that it may be appropriate to recommend BRCA testing in all black women with invasive breast cancer diagnosed at or below age 50,” said study lead Tuya Pal, MD, a clinical geneticist at Moffitt.

However, many minorities do not undergo recommended genetic testing and counseling. According to earlier studies by the same researchers, only about half of the black women studied were referred for, or received, genetic counseling or testing.

This may be due to the fact that many health care providers only refer patients for genetic counseling if the patients have a college education, are 45 years of age or younger, or have triple negative breast cancer.

Black women are more likely to receive genetic counseling if they are referred by a physician, have private health insurance, and have higher overall incomes.

“Overall, our results suggest that there is a great need to improve access to genetic services among high-risk black women,” said lead author of the report, Deborah Cargun, PhD, researcher and genetic counselor at Moffitt.

The results indicate that better testing and screening processes need to be performed in order to better inform patients about the status of their breast cancer. High-risk black women should adhere to their physician’s orders and submit themselves to genetic testing in order to receive the best treatment for their aggressive breast cancers.