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Genetic link behind lower breast cancer in Latinas

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Research out of UCSF finds there is a genetic reason behind Latinas lower risk of breast cancer.

One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. That's a sobering statistic, but there is a possible breakthrough.

It's already known that Latinas are at a lower risk for breast cancer than other ethnic groups. Scientists thought non-genetic factors, like having more children and breast feeding might have decreased their risk. A new study finds a genetic connection.

A milestone breast cancer study looks at a relatively unresearched population and comes up with a discovery that could have implications for all women.

Dr. Laura Fejerman, a genetics researcher at UCSF, considers this first of its kind study a breakthrough.

"Any new discovery about the genetics of breast cancer brings the potential research into the basic biology of the disease," said Fejerman.

An international team of scientists led by Dr. Fejerman and others at UCSF has discovered that some women of Latin descent have a genetic variant that protects them from breast cancer.

"The more indigenous you were, the lower your risk, including from any group that was in the Americas before colonization from Europe and before the slave trade," said Fejerman.

Women with one copy of the variant were about 40 percent less likely to have breast cancer. Women with two doubled the protection to 80 percent.

The study took Dr. Fejerman and the others more than seven years and included women from Latin American countries,though the bulk came from California.

The Latinas Contra Cancer in San Jose helped the researchers at UCSF with consultation and identification of study volunteers. The CEO thinks the results could be a game changer.

"I think it is cutting edge. They are looking at communities of color, women under researched who can probably bring some answers to the breast cancer puzzle," said Isabel Duron of Latinas Contra Cancer.

The finding could one day lead to new treatment options or medications that have relevance for all women.

Related Topics:
healthwomen's healthbreast cancerlatino lifeUCSFmedical researchSan Francisco
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