Genetic Mutation Increases Risk of Mesothelioma

Researchers have concluded that a hereditary mutation in a gene called BAP1 can greatly increase the risk of mesothelioma, as well as melanoma of the eye.


Mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly type of lung cancer almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, is responsible for 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Over half of patients with mesothelioma die within the first year after diagnosis. Melanoma of the eye, or uveal melanoma, is the most common type of eye tumor found in U.S. adults.

In the study, recently published in Nature Genetics, scientists examined two American families who had high rates of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer. After taking samples from the family members with mesothelioma or melanoma of the eye, they found that all samples contained the BAP1 gene mutation. Scientists then tested 26 additional participants who did not have a family history of mesothelioma but did have the disease. The biopsy results detected the BAP1 gene mutation in 25% of these participants.

The authors of the study believe that similar gene mutations may be closely related to other types of cancer, including breast, renal, and ovarian cancer. People with a BAP1 gene mutation may be at increased risk for developing these diseases, as well. 

Determining a hereditary predisposition to mesothelioma can help scientists and doctors identify people who are most at risk for developing the disease and intervene earlier for greater results at eradicating the cancer. The authors of the study recommend extensive cancer screenings in families with a strong history of mesothelioma or uveal melanoma to determine whether the gene mutation is present.

Scientists believe that further studies examining the connection between BAP1 and other genetic mutations with cancerous tumors can lead to a greater understanding of the underlying biological and hereditary causes of cancer. 

Vanessa Lausch

 


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