Mitochondrial DNA Reveals Patients’ Unexpected Ancestry – and Breast Cancer Risk

Mitochondrial DNA Reveals Patients’ Unexpected Ancestry – and Breast Cancer Risk
Analyses of mitochondrial DNA in women with triple-negative breast cancer revealed that a significant proportion of these patients may have a different ancestry than they are aware of — influencing their risk for more aggressive types of breast cancer. Researchers also report the surprise finding that people stemming from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Sierre Leone are at particularly high risk for triple-negative breast cancer. The findings, published in the study “Genetic Ancestry using Mitochondrial DNA in patients with Triple-negative breast cancer (GAMiT study),” in the journal Cancer, underscore mitochondrial DNA analyses could be used for risk stratification of patients. Triple-negative breast cancer — the scientific name for breast tumors having no receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 — is more aggressive and difficult to treat than other types of breast cancer. The cancer is also more likely to spread, and patients' chances of survival are generally lower than those with other forms of breast cancer. Researchers know that people with an African-American or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a higher risk of triple-negative breast cancer. Patients with this cancer subtype also tend to be younger, and thus commonly missed by mammography screenings, which target women over 50. Since mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother, no genetic mixing occurs, meaning it can be used to track ancestry. Researchers at the  University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center figured this information may also ultim
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