African American Women More Susceptible to Pretmenopausal Breast Cancer

A surprising new study has shown that African-American women have a higher risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer.

The study found that black women were more likely to have a rare p53 mutation present in their genome. When this gene is normally functioning, it is crucial for tumor suppression, but any mutation can cause uncontrolled cell growth while simultaneously stopping normal cell death. Basically, when mutated, cells can grow incredibly fast, which increases the risk of developing cancer.
The researchers behind this study had previously studied how this mutation develops in mice but wanted to focus on human carriers for this iteration of their research. During their initial studies, they found that this specific genetic mutation happens almost exclusively in those with African lineage, and so they focused the study on 14,000 black women. The results of the study have now been published in the NPJ Breast Cancer journal.

“Based on our previous studies on the functional effects of this genetic variant on the p53 protein, we sought to verify if it alters cancer risk in human carriers,” explains senior study author Dr. Maureen Murphy, to Specialty Pharmacy Times. “This genetic variant is present exclusively in people of African descent, so our study addresses cancer disparities in African American women, a historically underrepresented group in research studies.”

An all African-American control group is incredibly important because this demographic is routinely underrepresented in clinical studies, despite being more at risk to develop specific kinds of cancers.

At the end of their study, the researchers found that those with the mutated p53 gene were 70% more likely to develop breast cancer than those without. Because of these shocking results, it is important to note that the researchers expressed the importance of getting an annual mammogram as a means of cancer

For many patients suffering from cancer, hair loss is hard to cope with. Especially in African American culture, which puts great pride on women with natural hair styles. Worldwide, beauty and personal care products make up a $400 billion industry, but there are few options for women who lose their hair during chemotherapy.

However, that could soon change. There is a new treatment available that has been shown to reduce hair loss in cancer patients, a medical product known as cooling caps.

Cooling caps have been popular worldwide as a way for women to protect their hair during extensive cancer treatments, but they haven’t been studied extensively in the United States, until now.

One cooling cap recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the DigniCap helps women retain up to 50% of their hair during chemotherapy. The way it works is simple, the woman fits the double cap to her head 30 minutes before treatment, and it is set to 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The cap keeps the head cool during chemo and helps significantly with heat and radiation-induced follicle loss.

In fact, the findings are pretty significant. In DigniCap’s first study, 66.3% of women who wore the cap lost less than half of their hair over the course of four chemo sessions. Comparatively, the women who didn’t wear the cap lost all of their hair during each cancer treatment session.

The DigniCap is available in 17 states so far, and costs on average of between $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the number of chemotherapy cycles.

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