At this point, you're probably familiar with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, those faulty gene copies that can raise your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Angelina Jolie, for example, carries a BRCA1 genetic mutationÃ¢â‚¬”that's what prompted her to have a preventive double mastectomy last year.
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But BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can impact more than just breast and ovarian cancer risk; according to the National Cancer Institute, faulty BRCA2 genes are also associated with male breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer. And now we're learning, via a new study published in the journal Nature Genetics, that one particular BRCA2 mutation may increase your risk of lung cancer. Why this is especially important: Lung cancer kills nearly twice as many women as any other type of cancer.
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For this new study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of four lung cancer genome-wide association studies on people with European ancestry. They looked at 11,348 cases of lung cancer and compared those people's genotypes to the genotypes of 15,861 people who'd never had the disease. As it happens, one BRCA2 mutationÃ¢â‚¬”which a little less than two percent of people with European ancestry carryÃ¢â‚¬”increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer by about 80 percent, according to senior author Chris Amos, Ph.D., director of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Dartmouth. "And your risk for a subtype of lung cancer called squamous lung cancer is 2.5 times higher if you carry that variant," he says. This mutation is "the strongest genetic association in lung cancer reported so far," write the study authors in the paper.
The risk of developing lung cancer can go up to about 14 percent in heavy smokers (including those that don't have the mutation), says Amos. That means a serious smoker who carries the mutation could have about one in four chances of getting lung cancer in her lifetimeÃ¢â‚¬”not good odds at all. Nonsmokers can develop lung cancer, tooÃ¢â‚¬”about one percent of the general population of nonsmokers do, and they make up about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer cases, he says. This BRCA2 mutation would increase a nonsmoker's chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer to a little less than two percent.
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The researchers also found associations between lung cancer and a variant of CHEK2, a gene that stops cells from dividing when they have DNA damage, and between lung cancer and the TP63 gene, which researchers previously only thought was tied to lung cancer in Asian populations.
Despite these potential genetic links, the single most important thing you can do to lower your lung cancer risk is to not smoke, says Amos. Learn more about the deadly diseaseÃ¢â‚¬”and how you can fight itÃ¢â‚¬”here.
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