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A recent research has found that some of the genes responsible for determining the cup size of a woman have earlier been found to be associated with breast cancer. So is it right to infer that the size of your breasts determine your risk of breast cancer?
In a breakthrough study, researchers from a California based personal genomics company “23 and Me”, led by Dr. Nicholas Eriksson, have found a possible link between the breast size and the risk of developing breast cancer. Studies, done earlier, have established an association between breast density and breast cancer. Studies have also shown a link between fat deposition on the body and breast cancer. But this is for the first time that a study has shown that the genes involved in breast size and those involved in development of breast cancer may be common.
The study which was published in the 30th June issue of the journal BMC Medical Genetics was conducted on 16,175 of European ancestry. The investigators were trying to find out the genetic factors underlying the breast size of a woman. In order to achieve this, the researchers conducted a genome wide association study (GWAS) in which the women self-reported their bra cup size. Confounding factors like the age of the participants, their genetic ancestry, and history of pregnancies or breast surgeries were taken care of.
The researchers were looking for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which are responsible for certain traits, like the breast size, apart from illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, etc. SNPs are variations in the normal DNA wherein a single nucleotide in a genomic sequence is altered. They were able to identify seven SNPs associated with the breast size.
What surprised the researchers was the fact that two of these SNPs are also seen in cases of breast cancer. The same allele was found to be associated with increase in breast size as well as increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. Another SNP associated with breast size was found in close proximity to a SNP linked to breast density and increased breast cancer risk. The other SNPs related to the breast size were also found near the genes responsible for mammary development, estrogen regulation and breast cancer.
The results of the study provide an idea about the genetic basis behind normal breast development. The results also highlight the fact that some of the factors responsible for the breast development may also be responsible for breast cancer. Although the study does not prove that increased breast size leads to an increased risk of breast cancer, it throws light on the interactions between the breast structure and the risk of breast cancer.
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