Why do some BRCA women escape breast cancer?

I inherited my BRCA mutation from my father who inherited it from his mother.  This was confirmed when I had my genetic test which determined I had the exact same mutation as my father’s cousins on his mother’s side.  So how did my grandmother make it to nearly 70 without breast, ovarian or any other cancer?  Was it simply luck that she beat the odds?  After all, you only have an 87% lifetime risk of breast cancer so there is still a very small chance that you can live a long life without ever developing the disease?  And sure ovarian cancer is a smaller risk but still significant. 

Hmmm, my grandmother was a heavy smoker, worked in a photography studio with lots of chemicals, ate poorly, was always overweight and went 30 years without going to a dentist.  Was this the key?  And me, I’m not perfect but I certainly took care of myself, like most of the young woman I know who have battled this disease.  So scientists and researchers are looking into this specific issue.  Why have some Ashkenazi Jewish women with the BRCA mutation managed to escape this disease?   If they can find answers to these questions, they can begin to figure out how to prevent cancer (outside of the more drastic preventative measures available today) in women with a BRCA mutation.   


Posted on December 4, 2008, in brca, breast cancer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I don’t remember if you have a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation. There is a study that says smoking actually reduces the risk of breast cancer in carriers of a BRCA 1 mutation. It is attributed to the fact that smoking suppresses estrogen. There is another study that says BRCA 1 carriers who drink lots of coffee (6+ cups/day) have a reduction in risk of breast cancer. Did your grandmother drink a lot of coffee?

    Another significant study authored by Mary King Clair says that mutation carriers born before 1940 have a much later onset of disease than those born after 1940. This discrepancy can be attributed to a number of things, including environmental factors, life style and diet, body weight and fitness level, age of first pregnancy, and use of birth control pills.

    At the FORCE conferences, Dr. Steven Narod, a prominent BRCA researcher from Toronto, presents the latest information about modifiers of risk.

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