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According to a study presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), differences in the expression of two genes may contribute to worse breast cancer outcomes in African-American women.

Cancer incidence and survival in the U.S. continues to vary by race and ethnicity. African-American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than White women, for example, but are more likely to die of the disease. Possible explanations for health disparities include disparities in access to healthcare as well as language and cultural barriers; differences in gene expression or tumor biology could also be a factor.

To explore differences in gene expression between African-American and White women, researchers conducted a study among 48 women.[[1]]( "_ednref1") Gene expression was evaluated in normal breast tissue that had been removed during breast reduction surgery or breast biopsy.

Two genes were found to have higher expression in African-American women than in White women. Higher expression of these genes may promote cell growth and contribute to more aggressive breast cancer in African-American women.

The researchers are now evaluating tissue taken from women with breast cancer in order to determine whether these differences persist. In a prepared statement, Dr. Lori Field, one of the authors involved with the study, noted, “If we see that there are differences in the breast tumors, we may find new molecular targets to which therapy can be tailored specifically to African-American women.”

Another study presented at the AACR meeting reported on the link between family history and risk of breast cancer in African-American women.[[2]]( "_ednref2") Although a family history of breast cancer is known to increase the risk of breast cancer in White women, less is known about strength of the link in African-American women. The results were based on surveys of roughly 59,000 African-American women who participated in the Black Women’s Health Study. Study participants who had a mother or sister with breast cancer were 79% more likely to develop breast cancer than study participants who did not have a family history of breast cancer. Risk was particularly elevated for women under the age of 35 who had a family history of breast cancer.

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[[1]]( "_edn1") Field LA, Love BJ, Kane J et al. Differential gene expression in normal breast tissue from African-American and Caucasian women. Presented at the 2007 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Los Angeles, CA, April 14-18, 2007. Abstract 43.

[[2]]( "_edn2") Palmer JR, Adams-Campbell LL, Boggs DA, Rosenberg L. Familial breast cancer in a cohort of 59,000 African-American women: The Black Women’s Health Study. Presented at the 2007 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Los Angeles, CA, April 14-18, 2007. Abstract 2500.

Related News:Breast Cancer Risk Among Women with Family History Differs by Race (6/2/2006)

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