FRIDAY, Jan. 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Young breast cancer patients with a BRCA gene mutation have the same chances of survival after treatment as those without the mutation, a new study finds.
BRCA mutations are inherited and increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Between 45 percent and 90 percent of women with a BRCA mutation develop breast cancer, compared with about 12.5 percent of women in the general population.
"Our study is the largest of its kind, and our findings suggest that younger women with breast cancer who have a BRCA mutation have similar survival to women who do not carry the mutation after receiving treatment," said lead researcher Diana Eccles. She is with the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, in England.
"Women diagnosed with early breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation are often offered double mastectomies soon after their diagnosis or chemotherapy treatment," Eccles noted. "However, our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment."
This study included more than 2,700 women in the United Kingdom, aged 18 to 40, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. Twelve percent of the women had a BRCA mutation.
Most of the women (89 percent) received chemotherapy, 49 percent had breast-conserving surgery, 50 percent had a mastectomy, and less than 1 percent had no breast surgery, according to the report.
Survival rates after two years were 97 percent for women with a BRCA mutation and 96.6 percent for those without the mutation, the findings showed. After five years, survival rates were 83.8 percent and 85 percent, respectively. After 10 years, those rates were 73.4 percent and 70.1 percent, respectively.
The results were the same whether mutations were in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, according to the study published Jan. 11 in The Lancet Oncology.
"In the longer term, risk-reducing surgery should be discussed as an option for BRCA1 mutation carriers in particular, to minimize their future risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer," Eccles said in a journal news release.
"Decisions about timing of additional surgery to reduce future cancer risks should take into account patient prognosis after their first cancer, and their personal preferences," she added.
Eccles and her colleagues noted that the findings might not apply to older breast cancer patients with a BRCA mutation.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Peter Fasching, from Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, wrote: "Understanding prognosis in young patients is important because patients with BRCA mutations are at increased risk of developing specific conditions, such as secondary cancers."
Fasching added that "these risks determine treatment, and knowing that BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations do not result in a different prognosis might change the therapeutic approach for these risks."
Therefore, he concluded, "This important topic needs more prospective research, as preventive surgical measures might have an effect on what might be a very long life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age."
In related news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that they have approved the first drug aimed at treating metastatic breast cancers linked to the BRCA gene mutation. The FDA says it is expanding approval of Lynparza (olaparib) to include use against BRCA-linked tumors that have spread outside the breast.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on BRCA mutations.