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Xrays may increase cancer risk

30th June 2006

30062006_DoctorWithChestXray1.jpgChest X-rays may increase the chances of breast cancer in women with high risk genes, research suggests.

An analysis of 1,600 women with high risk BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations suggested exposure to low-level X-rays did have an effect.

The study found exposure before the age of 20 may be linked to particularly heightened risk.

The Journal of Clinical Oncology study was led by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.

Around 1 in 1,000 women in the UK carry a damaged version of the BRCA1 gene and 1 in 700 carry a faulty BRCA2 gene

The researchers found that women with BRCA1 and 2 mutations who had undergone a chest X-ray were 54 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who had never undergone the procedure.

Women who were exposed to X-rays before age 20 had a 2.5-fold increased risk of developing the disease before age 40, compared with women who had never been exposed.

Dr Goldgar said BRCA proteins played a key role in repairing damage in breast cells. Thus, women carrying mutated versions of the genes which control their production may be less able to repair any damage associated with exposure to the ionizing radiation emitted by X-rays.

However, the researchers admitted that it was possible that women who had gone on to develop breast cancer might be more likely to remember having had an X-ray than those who remained free from the disease.

They also failed to collect data on the specific dose and timing of radiation that was received.

 

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