The thing about cancer is that if you are at risk for one cancer there is also a very good chance you are also at risk for other cancers. This is just the nature of cancer—it has no prejudice. A new study continues to point this out as scientists have recently learned that women with the BRCA1 gene—which has been found to increase breast cancer risk and ovarian cancer risk—are at a higher risk for developing a deadly form of uterine cancer.
According to the new study, there is a definitive link between the gene mutation and uterine cancer. Fortunately, they say this risk is only slightly increased. Still, this is only the first study to find this link, so it is likely that more studies will continue to investigate the connection.
For this initial study, though, the researchers analyzed data from more than 1,000 women in the United States and United Kingdom with either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. The study followed these women for a median of approximately five years. Both gene mutations are associated with elevated breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk.
During the research period, the researchers found 8 of the women were diagnosed with uterine cancer, which is only a slightly higher rate but not necessarily—statistically–different among women in the general population. Therefore, there is little concern over the data, at least for now.
But, at least 5 of the 8 uterine cancer diagnoses were of a very uncommon yet highly aggressive type of cancer known as endometrial cancer. Furthermore, the study found that 4 out of 5 of those cancers occurred in women who had the BRCA1 mutation.
“We were surprised when we saw the data,” expressed study author Dr. Noah Kauff, who is the head of the Duke University Cancer Institute Clinical Cancer Genetics Program.
He goes on to say, “This is an event that should not occur in the over 600 women with BRCA1 mutations in our study. Even if we followed these women for 25 years, you would only expect to see no more than one serous cancer.”
The results of this study have been published online on June 30 in the journal JAMNA Oncology.
Kauff notes, “Our findings suggest that it may be important for women with BRCA1 mutations to consider removing their uterus at the time they are considering removing their ovaries and fallopian tubes, unless they are hoping to still have children using assisted reproductive methods or have other medical reasons.”