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Chest X-Rays May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

Women with inherited mutations are more likely to develop cancer if exposed to X-rays

WEDNESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer after exposure to chest X-rays compared with BRCA1/BRCA2 carriers who aren't exposed to X-rays, according to a report published online June 26 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

David E. Goldgar, Ph.D., of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, and colleagues analyzed data from a questionnaire sent to 1,601 women with inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations about their exposure to chest X-rays.

The researchers found that any exposure to chest X-rays increased the women's risk of developing breast cancer (hazard ratio 1.54). Particular groups of women were at higher risk, including those 40 years old or younger (HR, 1.97) and in women born after 1949 (HR, 2.56), especially if the exposure occurred only before the age of 20 years (HR, 4.64).

"In our series of BRCA carriers, we detected a relatively large effect on breast cancer risk with a level of radiation exposure that is at least an order of magnitude lower than in previously studied medical radiation-exposed cohorts," Goldgar and colleagues conclude. "Although part of this increase may be attributable to recall bias, the observed patterns of risk in terms of age at exposure and attained age are consistent with those found in previous studies."

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