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An international initiative to identify genetic modifiers of cancer risk in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers: the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (CIMBA)

DOI: 10.1186/bcr1670

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Female carriers of deleterious BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are predisposed to high lifetime risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Initial estimates indicated that around 80% of carriers of mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 from multiple-case families would develop breast cancer by age 70 [1,2], and genetic counseling is usually carried out on the assumption that penetrance estimates apply to all women. However, a later pooled analysis from population-based studies estimated an average risk by age 70 in this context of 66% in BRCA1 carriers and 45% in BRCA2 carriers [3]. It has also been reported that cancer risks vary by the age at diagnosis and the type of cancer in the index case [3,4]. Such observations are consistent with the more plausible hypothesis that cancer risks in mutation carriers are modified by genetic factors or other risk factors that cluster in families. Segregation analysis has also demonstrated that models that allow for other genes to have a modifying effect on the breast cancer risks conferred by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations fit significantly better than models without a modifying component [5]. Further evidence for genetic modifiers arises from studies of risk factors that are themselves influenced by genetic factors. For example, mammographic density that has a strong genetic component [6] has been recently shown in one study to modify the breast cancer risks in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers [7].Although there has been considerable interest in finding genetic modifiers of cancer risk in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, the number of published studies is still fairly modest and has focused around genes involved in a limited number of pathways: detoxification of environmental carcinogens, DNA repair and steroidogenesis. Several studies have evaluated the CAG repeat length polymorphism in the androgen receptor (AR) gene as a modifier of breast cancer risk among mutation carriers. However, the data from different studies are contradictory and no firm c


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