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Breast cancer runs in families; however, genetic predisposition (such as being BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers) explains only a portion of this observation.
Epigenetic changes (modifications in the genome that alter gene expression but do not affect the DNA sequence per se) have been shown to also play a role in breast cancer risk.
Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York have now examined whether a specific epigenetic modification (more specifically, methylation of the DNA) can be associated to breast cancer family history in unaffected women from high-risk breast cancer families.
This important work suggests that the levels of DNA methylation in white blood cells from cancer-free women could be one of the factors playing a role in the clustering of breast cancer in families with extensive cancer histories within its members.
Full Open Access report by Delgado-Cruzata et al. in the February 2014 issue of Epigenetics: Differences in DNA methylation by extent of breast cancer family history in unaffected women
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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20 Apr. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/270938>
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