RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Ataxia-telangiectasia genes and breast cancer risk in a French family study.

Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a rare autosomal recessive early childhood disorder, characterized by progressive neuronal degeneration, immunological deficiency, radiosensitivity and an increased risk of cancer caused in most cases by mutations in the AT-mutated gene (ATM). Epidemiological studies on AT families have shown that AT heterozygous women have an increased risk of developing breast cancer (BC). The ATM protein plays a central role in the recognition and repair of DNA double-strand breaks and the subsequent activation of cell-cycle checkpoints. Whilst AT is a rare disease, 0.5-1 % of the general population are estimated to be AT mutation carriers, thus any increases in the risks of cancer associated with ATM carrier status are of public health relevance. The main results of our published studies on the risk of BC in 34 French AT families according to heterozygote status, type of ATM mutation and exogenous factors are summarized here. The risk of BC was higher in ATM heterozygous (HetATM) women and did not differ significantly according to the type of ATM mutation (missense vs truncating) carried by the AT family members but appeared associated with the position of some truncating mutations in certain binding domains of the ATM protein. The effect of exogenous factors, such as reproductive life factors and exposure to ionizing radiation, on the risk of BC according to ATM heterozygote status was assessed. There was no evidence for interaction (except for age at first full-term pregnancy). These findings does not appear to justify a separate screening program from that already available to other women with a first-degree relative affected by BC, as their risks have similar amplitude. Chest X-rays did not appear to be a risk factor for BC in our study population. More powerful studies, using data sets pooled from international sources are being set up to confirm these observations.

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