A Gene That ‘Causes Cancer’ Probably Doesn’t Increase Your Chances of Dying From Cancer

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Two notorious genetic mutations linked with breast cancer may not impact how long a woman will survive, a new study has found. The paper, which only looked at women diagnosed under the age of 40, was published Thursday in The Lancet Oncology.

The BRCA mutation may be most famous for its association with Angelina Jolie, who announced she carried the BRCA1 mutation in 2013 in a New York Times opinion piece. Jolie surgically removed and reconstructed her breasts as a preventive measure after learning her BRCA status.

For this study, researchers followed more than 2,700 women recruited from more than a hundred British hospitals for nearly a decade. After analyzing their DNA for the mutations, they checked in around the two-, five- and 10-year anniversary of each woman’s diagnosis to see if she were still alive. According to the paper, this is the largest study of its kind to look at breast cancer outcomes based on a woman’s BRCA mutation status.

This new study found that even after 10 years, women with BRCA mutations had equally high odds of surviving. For women with a mutation whose breast tumors were also triple-negative—which refers to the lack of three specific characteristics seen in a breast tumor—their odds of long-term survival was the same, too. (This makes sense, as some treatment seem to be more effective on cancers if the person carries the BRCA1 mutation.)

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