Researchers have demonstrated that women with a history of pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, have as much as a 90% decrease in breast cancer risk if they carry a specific common gene variant. Further studies are now underway to determine the mechanism of this protection in an effort to develop new breast cancer prevention strategies for all women. The study was published online on August 18, 2017 in Cancer Causes & Control. The open-access article is titled "Functional IGF1R Variant Predicts Breast Cancer Risk in Women with Preeclampsia in California Teachers Study.” The research, directed by lead author Mark Powell, MD, MPH, and Buck Institute Professor Christopher Benz, MD, was carried out in the large California Teachers Study. Women with pre-eclampsia were found to have a 74% lower risk of the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor positive) if they carried two T alleles of a variant of the insulin-like growth factor receptor gene when compared to women carrying no T alleles. This decrease in risk increased to 90% if the pregnancy with preeclampsia occurred before the age of 30. "We are thrilled to work with researchers from our Scientific Advisory Board on this exciting project with the potential for developing a new approach to prevention. This very much fits with our goal of reducing the risk of breast cancer," said Rose Barlow, Executive Director of Zero Breast Cancer, which administered the study with funding from the Avon Foundation for Women.
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