Women who carry an inherited fault in the BRIP1 gene are three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those without it, researchers said Tuesday.
The gene variant had already been linked to cancer of the ovaries, but the size of the additional risk has now been quantified in a study in the Journal of the US National Cancer Institute. "Around 18 women in every 1,000 develop ovarian cancer, but this risk increases to around 58 women in every 1,000 for women with a fault in the BRIP1 gene," said a statement from Cancer Research UK, whose researchers led the research.
The fault inhibited tissue cells from properly repairing their own DNA, causing genetic damage to build up over time, and leading to cancer, said the team. The rare but deadly disease, with few early symptoms, is often diagnosed at a very advanced stage, hence its reputation as a silent killer. About 60 percent of patients die within five years.
The study compared the genes of over 8,000 European women - including a group diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a healthy group, and a third with a family history of the disease.
They found that women who carried the BRIP1 mutation were more likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, at a later stage and at an older age.
"Finding these women will help us prevent more cancers and save lives. This would be important in a disease like ovarian cancer, which tends to be diagnosed at a later stage when the chances of survival are worse."
Women with a mutation on the BRCA1 gene, for example, carry a very high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide.