If you don't think you are a candidate for genetic testing, the results of a new study may change your mind. Scientists have uncovered evidence that suggests 10% of the population carries a gene that significantly increases the risk of cancer, maybe taking the blame for as many as 20,000 new cancer cases every year.
Researcher Virginia Daklamani, M.D., says that their study showed that this gene increases the risk of cancer by 26%. More specifically, it increases the risk of breast, ovarian, and colon cancer where the risk increases to close to 50%.
Dr. Kaklamani says when inherited, the gene makes people susceptible to having certain cells grow and divide uncontrollably. It's not a guarantee that cancer is on the way, but it does offer a red flag to take some action early.
Genetic counselor Tara Young says that if they know that an individual is at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, rather than starting colonoscopies at age 50, they will recommend that they start them much younger. So, it's not just an issue of preventing cancer altogether, but also being able to detect it earlier and potentially at a more curable stage.
If further study confirms this link to cancer, researchers say it could be a matter of time before a screening test is available. There is a test for the TGFRB16A gene, and it's being used in research at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, but scientists say it is too early to make available to the general public.
So far, the gene has been linked to colon, breast, and ovarian cancer and there was also evidence it may play a role in blood cancers like Leukemia. People with two copies of the mutated gene have double the cancer risk. Researchers are now looking to see how aggressive the cancers linked to TGFRB16A are and whether mutations can not only be inherited but caused by the environment or behavior.
The study was conducted by researchers at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers note that their findings should put the gene on the map with better known cancer susceptibility genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that have been implicated in an estimated 5-10% of all breast and ovarian cancers their studies suggest that transforming growth factor beta receptor 16a or TGFRB16A is the most commonly inherited cancer susceptibility gene identified so far, even more common than the BRCA1 and two genes.