Only seven percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer in Iceland actually carry the BRCA gene which has been found to increase one’s risk for breast and ovarian cancers, professor of genetics Jórunn Erla Eyfjörð told RÚV yesterday.
Jórunn is a leading geneticist in cancer research and helped found the cancer research institute at the University of Iceland. Two decades ago, she was among the researchers who located the mutative BRCA2 gene, which is one of two genes found to both increase one’s likelihood of developing breast cancer and to be more common among Icelanders.
However, Jórunn says that the matter is more complicated than what has been implied by the recent debate over whether carriers of the gene should be informed of their risk status, a debate which arose in Iceland in the wake of actor Angelina Jolie’s public discussion of her choice to undergo a preventative double mastectomy.
Jórunn says that of the 200 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Iceland, only 13-14 are carriers of the BRCA gene. In other words, only seven percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer actually carry the mutative gene, which means it is far from being the leading cause of breast cancer.
Jórunn further states that not all women who carry the BRCA2 gene develop breast cancer and that other forms of treatment besides mastectomy should and are being considered.
She says that the past decade has seen a lot of research done on the effects of the BRCA2 gene and that a drug is currently being developed to treat individuals who carry the gene. The drug is not yet available on the market.
Related Grapevine story here.