Landmark study offers new information about breast cancer genes

earch associates. Twelve hospitals and medical centers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut enrolled participants in the study over a 5-year period.

Principal investigator Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington, commented: "This study is unique because it integrates molecular genetics, epidemiology and genetic counseling to identify genetic and environmental factors whose understanding can lead to the control of breast or ovarian cancer. Data about inherited cancer in Jewish families not only benefits those with mutation in the BRCA genes but can also be applied to the general population of American women who, although not at such extremely high risk, confront breast and ovarian cancer as devastating realities in their lives."

The role of genetic counseling in the study provided the 1,008 participants and their families with:

  • Information and the opportunity to discuss risks associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
  • Medical options for prevention and early detection.

"The results of the study provide genetic counselors with validated information about the actual cancer risks related to BRCA gene mutations so that they can offer patients the most comprehensive information on genetic testing and preventive medical options," said Joan H. Marks, one of the study's principal investigators and co-author of the Science magazine article. "The environmental findings also enable younger women without breast cancer today to consider changing behavior to help modify their risks of developing breast cancer," she said.

The field of genetic counseling, which now extends around the world, was born at Sarah Lawrence College in 1969 with the establishment of the first graduate program to train professionals in both the science of genetics and the psychology of working with patients and families at risk for inherited disease. Today, th

Contact: Judith Schwartzstein
Sarah Lawrence College

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