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Defective Breast Cancer Gene Common In African American Women

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Christie Ileto 370 x 278 Christie Ileto
Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Genetics can play a big role in getting cancer.

As Christie Ileto explains, a new study shows a breast cancer causing gene is surprisingly common in African American women with the disease.

More than 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and gene flaws are part of the reason.

In fact, a new report says BRCA1 gene mutations are common in African American women.

“It’s nice to know it’s finally been identified as an early predictor of who will and will not be diagnosed at some point with breast cancer,” said Cynthia Brooks.

And that’s something Brooks knows all too well.

“My mother, the late Dr. Bea Gaddy, was diagnosed with Stage IIA, with triple negative breast cancer. And then several years later her sister was diagnosed with the same disease,” Brooks said.

In the U.S., about 5-10 percent of cancers are thought to be genetic, from bad BRCA genes.

And of the 249 black breast cancer patients used in this latest study, half had a family history of the disease.

“Having a family history of having multiple families of either breast or ovarian cancer on the same side of the family, those are the red flags we think of should be tested for BRCA mutation,” a doctor said.

So what are options for high risk women? Doctors say you should consider more frequent screenings and preventative options, including breast removal like Angelina Jolie chose.

The Hollywood actress revealed last month she carries the defective gene that gave her a greater risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

As for Brooks, she’s looking at getting tested to see if she has the cancer causing gene too.

“The earlier, the better. Be tested. Have your mammograms,” she said.

She is asking women, especially African Americans, to do the same.

Preventative surgeries reduce the risk of breast cancer to under 5 percent.

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