Breast cancer linked to bacteria

Frederick Owens
October 25, 2017

"For example, one study found that women who got plenty of vitamin D in early life - either in their diet or by spending time outdoors, where sun exposure triggers vitamin D production in the skin - had a lower risk for breast cancer", as mentioned on Harvard's online health portal.

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"This ultimately could benefit all women - in those with a strong family history and those without", an Australian researcher involved with the study, Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, told The New Daily. The inherited component of breast cancer risk is due to a combination of rare variants in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that confer a high risk of the disease, and many commoner genetic variants that each confer only a small risk.

Pinpointing specific genes is hard, but the OncoArray scientists were able to make predictions about many target genes - a first step towards designing new treatments.

Dr Pallave Dasari, an Australian breast cancer research fellow at University of Adelaide, said that while she believed this was a "really valuable" progression in understanding family history risk, a test was "extremely premature" at this stage.

While studying 21,468 ER-negative cases, the researchers identified 10 new gene mutations that could explain approximately 1.5 of the heritable risk of ER-negative breast cancer. The researchers found that non-cancerous breast tissue had more of a certain type of bacteria, and the cancerous tissue had other types that were elevated.

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U.S. co-author Professor Peter Kraft, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said the findings revealed a wealth of new information about the genetic mechanisms underlying the disease. In the last couple of decades, breast cancer-related mortality has shown a declining trend because of early detection and improved treatment.

'This should provide guidance for a lot of future research, ' he added. Lifestyle related amendments can also help a great deal in keeping breast cancer at bay or reducing the risks.

Others, known as oestrogen-receptor negative, are not affected by the hormone and are more hard to treat. QIMR Berghofer senior researcher Jonathan Beesley said researchers now knew much more about the genetic mechanisms that might cause breast cancer.

"We knew about 100 before, it is a big contribution but probably more important than the number is the methods we developed", she said.

Another seven genetic variants predisposed women specifically to oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, which often had a poorer prognosis because it did not respond to standard drugs such as Tamoxifen.

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