All of us know at least two people who are fighting cancer or we have lost some beloved person or a friend to cancer. Understandably, the word cancer instills fear in our minds simply because the disease is highly fatal. The thing that we all need to know is that a diagnosis of cancer need not ALWAYS result in death. There are new ways to combat this killer.
Breast cancer, for example, is a major health problem for women and for Indian women, in particular. Studies have shown that the occurrence of breast cancer is increasing in urban as well as rural Indian women. Several factors like obesity, smoking, excessive drinking, hormonal therapy for reproductive health, lack of breastfeeding can increase the risk of development of breast cancer.
At Strand Center, we have studied genes that may increase a women’s risk of suffering from breast cancer. Our scientists have identified 50 mutations (variants of a gene) in genes that are present in the Indian population, which can cause breast cancer. Some of these gene mutations have been identified earlier. Our analysis showed that there are 19 new mutations that have not been identified by other researchers. So, all in all, these gene variations have increased the chances of breast cancer amongst Indian women.
Why is this a big deal, you might ask! There are two major genes that are associated with breast cancer BRCA1 and BRCA2. If these genes carry undesirable mutations, a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer can be very high. Mutations in these genes can cause ovarian cancer in women as well. Our research has shown that Indian women, as a population group, have a large number of mutations in the BRCA1 gene. BRCA (pronounced as bra-ca) stands for breast cancer simply because this gene was first identified in breast cancer patients. BRCA1 and BRCA2 as well as other gene mutations can increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer as well.
In addition to the fact that there are more gene variants that put Indian women at risk, we also now know that some of these genes can be passed on from mother- to- child, in a family. So, if you know of an aunt or cousin who is suffering from breast cancer, it would be good for you to get yourself tested. If your mother or sister is fighting breast cancer, the sooner you get yourself tested, the better! You can understand whether you carry the defective variants of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or you have been lucky to get the good variants. We also have facilities to test for the other genes that might cause breast cancer as well.
Another feature of the breast cancer scenario in India is that about 25% of the cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women <35 years of age. So, as a young lady, should you be worried? We say, do not worry, get yourself tested as soon as possible to understand your own risk.
The fight against cancer, any type of cancer, can be fought well using many therapeutic options, IF the cancers are diagnosed in their early stages. Hence, getting a Strand Germline Advantage diagnostic test for breast and ovarian cancer can help you understand your personal risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer. We do not recommend the full Angelina Jolie surgery, to anyone who might even be at risk!! However, our tests can help you make better life choices in terms of having kids at the right time as well as getting regular medical checkups done.
1. Agarwal G, Ramakant P. Breast Cancer Care in India: The Current Scenario and the Challenges for the Future. Breast Care (Basel). 2008;3(1):21-27. doi:10.1159/000115288.
2. Agarwal G, Pradeep P V., Aggarwal V, Yip C-H, Cheung PSY. Spectrum of Breast Cancer in Asian Women. World J Surg. 2007;31(5):1031-1040. doi:10.1007/s00268-005-0585-9.
3. Mannan AU, Singh J, Lakshmikeshava R, et al. Detection of high frequency of mutations in a breast and/or ovarian cancer cohort: implications of embracing a multi-gene panel in molecular diagnosis in India. J Hum Genet. 2016;61(6):515-522. doi:10.1038/jhg.2016.4.