Posts tagged ‘genetic ancestry’

Women, who are considered to have a breast or ovarian cancer risk often miss diagnosing it early enough. This could well be for the fact that the family history on the father’s side is often not taken into account.

Researchers associated with Lancet Oncology say that the women are more likely to refer to the disease on their mother’s side of the family. Consequently, the incidences of women having maternal histories of cancer are referred almost five times more than others by their family doctors.

A charity associated with cancer in the UK also stated that the history of the father is often overlooked especially when it is a case of breast or ovarian cancer. Studies have revealed that almost 5% to 10% of such cancers are usually associated with genetic inheritance. A significant amount of the genetic risk manifests itself as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 defect. This is associated with the possibility of the concerned woman being diagnosed by breast or ovarian cancer in her life time.

A woman having a family history of cancer is therefore at a risk and can take the necessary precaution by being referred for genetic testing in order to find out whether she has the defect.

Jeanna McCuaig, the leader of the research team and attached to the Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto  found out that in spite of the chances of inheriting a defective gene from the father and mother being 50-50, the maternal history is the only one taken into consideration most of the time. A study of records from their own clinic showed the disparity in referral rates.

The reason for overlooking the paternal history might be due to ignorance feel the researchers. McCuaig stated knowing of two prominent cases where the women concerned were falsely reassured despite having a history of BRCA2 gene mutation and incidences of breast/ovarian cancer in their paternal families.

Dr Caitlin Palframan said that it was important to understand the importance of paternal family history of cancers as the faulty genes can be inherited from either side of the family.


The outcome for cancers of the head and neck is more likely to be influenced by social behavioral patterns instead of genetic ancestry, especially in African Americans, revealed the results of a study that had been undertaken by the Henry Ford Hospital.

While the researchers uncovered evidence of self reported African Americans facing a far greater risk of developing the terminal stage of cancer, there are no hard facts available that can correlate the ancestry with cancer stage or survival.  On the contrary, evidence shows only about 5% of the persons who reported themselves of African American ancestry to have 95% or more of West African ancestry.

The study leader and director of research associated with the Department of Otolaryngology, Henry Ford Hospital, Maria J. Worsham, said that this was the first possible piece of evidence which used genetic races to find out about the various stages of cancer as well as survival rates in patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

While the number of African Americans being diagnosed with late stages of cancer have more chances of succumbing in comparison to the Caucasians, it has not been possible to get a consensus on the possible causes so far. However, factors like the stage of cancer at diagnosis, access to health care as well as the insurance status are all likely to contribute to the equation. Smoking and consumption of alcohol are also regarded as two principal risk factors for this particular type of cancer.

The results of the study were brought forward at the annual meeting of the ‘American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery Foundation’ at Boston on 26th September.

The actual study was conducted on 358 patients, 37 of whom were African Americans. The researchers looked at the diagnosis particularly the late stages vis-à-vis the early ones along with the overall survival rate for African Americans suffering from HNSCC or Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. It was conducted on the basis of their self reported race which could be traced back to the West African ancestry.  The study was also based on the panel comprising of 100 AIMs for estimating the genetic background.

The ultimate result could not establish any relation between the West African ancestry and the outcome of HNSCC.  It was the only the self reported race which was associated with the various stages of the head and neck cancer.

Source: Public Release by Henry Ford Health System on 26th September, 2010.

Study co-authors:  George Divine, Ph.D., Henry Ford Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology; Rick A. Kittles, Ph.D., University of Illinois School of Public Health.