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Mammograms may increase risk of breast cancer in some women

10 September 2012
Appeared in BioNews 672

Women carrying mutations in their BRCA genes may be more susceptible to breast cancer if exposed to diagnostic chest X-rays before the age of 30, say scientists.

'BRCA genes help repair DNA damage – damage which can be caused by exposure to radiation like X-rays. Women with faults in these genes are less able to repair damage caused by radiation, so they are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer', said Professor Douglas Easton, a UK Cancer Research scientist and one of the authors of the study at the University of Cambridge.

Approximately one in 400 women carry mutations in their BRCA genes. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, enrolled almost 2,000 women with faulty BRCA genes from the UK, France and the Netherlands. Of these women, those who were exposed to chest radiation before the age of 30 were found to be 43 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, when compared to those women with BRCA mutations who were not.

The results of the study estimated that for every 100 women with faulty BRCA genes, nine would develop breast cancer by the time they reached the age of 40. Researchers then projected that if 100 women with faulty BRCA genes were exposed to radiation from one mammogram before the age of 30, the number who would go on to develop breast cancer would increase to 14.

Dr Anouk Pijpe, one of the authors of the study from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, said: 'We believe countries who use mammograms in women under 30 should reconsider their guidelines. It may be possible to reduce the risk of breast cancer in (high-risk) women by using MRIs [magnetic resonance imaging], so we believe physicians and patients should consider that'. MRIs, unlike traditional mammograms, do not use radiation to scan the breast tissue.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: 'In the UK younger women are already screened using MRI scans rather than mammograms to avoid these risks – but this isn't the case in all countries yet'.

BRCA Carriers at Extra Risk From Radiation
Medpage Today |  6 September 2012
Exposure to diagnostic radiation and risk of breast cancer among carriers of BRCA1/2 mutations: retrospective cohort study (GENE-RAD-RISK)
British Medical Journal |  6 September 2012
Exposure to X-rays raises risk of breast cancer in young women with BRCA faults
Cancer Research UK (press release) |  6 September 2012
Radiation may up breast cancer risk in some women
Associated Press |  7 September 2012
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Mammogram Radiation, Breast Cancer, BRCA in Some Women ( - 10/09/2012)
I suggest the findings of Pijpe, et al., result from lowering of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels by radiation.

It is my hypothesis that low dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the major cause of breast cancer and other cancers (Annals of Internal Medicine 2005; 142: 471-472).  Additionally, it has been suggested “…that DHEA has a potent preventive activity against the promotion/progression phase of radiation-induced mammary tumorigenesis.”  (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1995 Jul;54(1-2):47-53).

Radiation reduces DHEA in women, carriers of BRCA, who are very susceptible to the effects, already, of low DHEA.  Radiation simply reduces DHEA further in these women and exposes their vulnerability.

I have written a paper which specifically explains the mechanism.   “BRCA Mutation, Brest Cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)” at: .
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