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Environmental Influence

Environmental influences on the expression of DNA repair genes could in part account for the higher mortality seen among Black women in the US with breast cancer, New Scientist reports.

Researchers from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute examined both mutations affecting DNA damage repair genes and up- and down-regulation of those genes in breast tumor and normal tissue from Black women with breast cancer, which they compared to a cohort of white women. As they report in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology, the researchers uncovered eight DNA damage repair genes whose expression was differentially regulated among tumors from Black women and was linked to poorer survival. They note that this signature could further be detected among healthy tissue and could be due to environmental differences.

"What we're seeing here is a tangible molecular difference in how these cells repair damaged DNA — a critical factor in the development of cancer — which affects how cells grow and reproduce in tumors," senior author Svasti Haricharan, an assistant professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys, says in a statement.

Navita Somaiah from the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK notes at New Scientist that the sample size of the study was small. Still, she adds that that "it highlights the need to consider molecular differences linked to ethnicity when developing future therapies."

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