Hispanics have less than a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer when compared to 13 percent for non-Hispanic whites and 11 percent for African Americans. A study led by a team at the University of California, San Francisco may have found why Latinas have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. There is a genetic variation that is common in Hispanic women with indigenous American ancestry that appears to lower the risk of breast cancer.
The genetic variation may work by decreasing breast density or affecting the production of estrogen receptors. Women who carry one copy of the variant were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer and those with two copies had double that level of protection. The risk was especially low for estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form. This genetic variant may lower the risk of breast cancer, but is not the “silver bullet” because some women with the variant still get breast cancer. Marc Hurlbert, the executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade is quoted in saying that this study is important because “if we can understand how this is protective, it might help us to develop better treatments for those who do get breast cancer.”