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Another Breast Cancer Gene ID'd

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"For genetic screening, this gene would most likely not be used alone, but in combination with others," says Ziv.

Helen K. Chew, MD, is the director of the Breast Cancer Program at the University of California, Davis, Cancer Center in Sacramento. She calls the study "very interesting" and "promising," but before T29 can be considered a screening tool, she says more research is needed in large populations. Chew was not involved in the study.

Although Press agrees that further research is needed, he feels that screening for this gene type, as well as for others affecting breast cancer risk, may eventually be helpful. Identifying women at risk would allow closer monitoring for development of breast tumors so that treatment can be started early when it is most likely to lead to a cure.

Additional research recommended by Ziv includes examining the effect of the gene in other groups, including younger women and minorities, and in combination with noninherited breast cancer risk factors.

Female sex and age, rather than family history, are the most important risk factors for breast cancer, Chew says: "Most women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease, but it becomes more common with advancing age, especially over age 70."

Environmental factors interacting with heredity also may influence breast cancer risk. Although drinking alcohol seems to increase breast cancer risk, the possibly harmful effects of pesticide exposure, birth control pills, and high dietary fat are not as clear. Diets high in fresh fruits, vegetables, soybean products, and whole grains seem to protect against breast cancer. Breastfeeding also may decrease risk, as might exercise.

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