Survival Rates

Heredity Does Not Determine Breast Cancer Survival By David Douglas

NEW YORK- Contrary to some previous reports, breast cancer patients with a genetic predisposition to the disease have survival rates similar to those of other breast cancer patients, Finnish researchers have found.

Dr. Hannaleena Eerola, of Helsinki University Central Hospital, told Reuters Health that several studies have looked at survival among women with familial breast cancer, but the results have been inconsistent.

She and her colleagues investigated the survival rates of 359 familial breast cancer patients. Of these, 32 were from families positive for the BRCA1 susceptibility gene, 43 were from BRCA2-positive families and the remaining 284 were from families negative for both.

Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for most cases of inherited breast and ovarian cancer, they note in the August 1st issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

When the researchers compared the survival rates of their study patients with that of other breast cancer patients (almost 60,000) diagnosed in Finland over more than 40 years, they found that women with a genetic susceptibility to the disease had survival rates comparable to other patients.

The overall 5-year survival rate was 67% for breast cancer patients from BRCA1-positive families, 77% for those from BRCA2-positive families, 86% for those with familial disease not related to these two mutations, and 78% for women whose cancer was not related to heredity, Eerola and her colleagues report.

When they factored in the women's age, stage of the disease and year of diagnosis, there were no significant differences in survival between women with familial breast cancer and the general breast cancer population.

Still, Eerola noted that even the small survival differences they found--if confirmed in larger studies--could affect the care of women with familial breast cancer. However, she concluded that ``based on this and previous studies, it is probable that large differences do not exist.''

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer 2001;93:368-372.

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