A multracial study conducted by researchers from the Northern California Cancer Institute at Stanford University has discovered that a genetic mutation in the BRCA1 gene, known to increase the risk of cancer in certain Jewish women of Eastern European ancestry, is found in significant numbers in Hispanic women who develop the disease. It is estimated that 3.5 percent of Hispanic women with breast cancer also have a mutation of this gene. In women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 35, the prevalence of the mutation is 8.9 percent. Since minority women are less likely to be tested for the BRCA1 mutation, the chance of detecting any possible cancer at an early stage is lower.
The BRCA1 gene makes a protein that helps cells repair DNA, but a mutation of this gene makes them less able to fix DNA and the accumulated mutations can lead to cancer.