Individual risk for breast cancer may soon be predictable

According to an international collaborative led by Harvard University, the amount of p27, a mammary gland progenitor, may be able to accurately assess an individual woman's risk for developing breast cancer. This was discovered by examining the connection between women who gave birth in their early 20s and a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. In a paper that was published by the journal Cell Stem Cell, the researchers explain how p27 may be a marker for determining risk levels.

Scientists had observed that young women who delivered their first bundle of joy in their early 20s also had a decreased risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Having a baby was found to lower the number of p27 a woman has because a full-term pregnancy will reduce the number of mammary progenitors in her body. Since she is was still very young, the p27 cells in the new mother had less time to become mutated than women who have children later. With this observation in mind, the researchers looked at women who inherited mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and found that not only do these women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but they also have a higher concentration of mammary gland progenitors, including p27. 

The connection is now being tested to see if p27 levels can accurately predict an individual woman's risk. If their theory is proven correct, new therapies could be developed that reduce p27 levels and potentially prevent the cancer from developing altogether.

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