By Justin Worland
October 21, 2014
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Some Latina women have a gene that significantly lowers the risk of getting breast cancer, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that the gene is most effective at protecting against the variations of the disease that lead to the worst prognosis.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco reported that 20% of self-identified Latinas had one copy of the gene, which led to 40% reduced risk of breast cancer. The 1% of Latinas who had two copies of the gene were about 80% less likely to have breast cancer, the study found.

Other medical research has shown that Latina women have lower a incidence of breast cancer than women with other backgrounds, but it wasn’t clear from what caused the disparity.

“After our earliest studies, we thought there might be a genetic variant that led to increased risk in European populations,” said UCSF professor and study author Elad Ziv in a press release. “But what this latest work shows is that instead there is a protective variant in Native American and Latina populations.”

Mammograms conducted for the study showed that women with the genetic variation had less dense breast tissue, which is thought to correlate with reduced breast cancer risk.

“We have detected something that is definitely relevant to the health of Latinas,” said Laura Fejerman, UCSF assistant professor and an author of the study, in a press release. “As a Latina myself, I am gratified that there are representatives of that population directly involved in research that concerns them.”

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