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Gene variant connected to male breast cancer

Published on | Kylie Chin

It may go without saying that breast cancer is commonly thought of as a woman’s disease, however, male breast cancer does occasionally occur – 1 out of every 100 breast cancer diagnosis are men. Recently, the largest study of male breast cancer was conducted from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research in London. An inherited gene variant was discovered that increases a man’s chance of developing breast cancer by 50 percent. This suggests that the causes of breast cancer may differ between men and women.

Details of the study

male breast cancer researchResearchers analyzed the genetic code of 823 male breast cancer patients from the United Kingdom. They investigated 447,000 genetic changes and surmised a crucial finding in the RAD51B gene – a gene responsible for repairing damaged DNA.  Inherited alterations and damage to this gene can raise a man’s breast cancer risk by as much as 50 percent. However, the absolute risk of breast cancer in men with this faulty gene remains low.

Previous findings only alluded to inherited genetic risk factors and mutations to the BRCA2 gene causing breast cancer in men. However, this specific variation of the RAD51B gene could be much more significant than all past research combined.

RAD51B, like BRCA2, aids in the repair of damaged DNA inside cells. RAD51B changes have been previously linked to women’s risk of breast cancer, but the new variant is in a different part of the gene when compared to the female version.

A leap forward

Team leader Dr. Nick Orr at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre calls this development a significant “leap forward” in the understanding of male breast cancer.

“[This study] shows that while there are similarities with female breast cancer, the causes of the disease can work differently in men. This raises the possibility of different ways to treat the disease specifically for men.”

 Overall, it’s clear that the genetic triggers for breast cancer vary significantly between men and women. A man who inherited a damaged BRCA2 breast cancer gene has a higher risk of developing breast cancer than a woman with the similar faulty gene. This suggests there are most likely considerable differences between the sexes in how the disease matures and how to best treat it.

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