A woman’s breast size may be a factor in her cancer risk, a surprising new study has found.
Researchers with a commercial DNA company have linked a larger breast size with seven genetic factors that raise the risk for developing breast cancer.
The study, involving more than 16,000 women, suggests the link may involve genetic factors involved in the production of the female sex hormone estrogen that can trigger the growth of mammary glands and tumors.
The study, published by the company 23andMe in the journal BMC Medical Genetics, is the first to identify a concrete genetic link between breast size and cancer risks.
"The findings in this study show that some of the same biological pathways underlie both normal breast growth and breast cancer," said lead author Nicholas Eriksson. "Some studies have found that larger breast size as a young woman is associated with a slightly higher risk for breast cancer. The genetic factors we found support this concept that breast size and breast cancer are related."
Researchers based their conclusions on survey information involving 16,175 female 23andMe customers, who reported their bra sizes, and genetic data derived from the women’s saliva.
23andMe is a personal genetics company that helps individual patients understand their own genetic information through DNA analysis technologies.
Anne Wojcicki, the company’s CEO and founder, said the firm’s extensive genetic database – involving more than 150,000 customers – allows for unique methods of research, such as the latest breast-size cancer study.
"The 23andMe research platform is a robust source of new genetic discoveries and this study demonstrates that important scientific insights can come from the most unlikely places," she said. "Nearly 90 percent of our more than 150,000 customers participate in our online research allowing 23andMe to make discoveries faster and more cost effectively than traditional research models."