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Sharon Osbourne's Boobs

November 5, 2012

Torah Kachur

For one fleeting day, the Osbourne's are actually contributing something positive to society.  All because Sharon has decided to have her breasts removed in a double mastectomy.

 

     

 

She has not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but did suffer from colon cancer in 2002.  So why remove the lady lumps?  Genetic testing revealed an increased risk of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.  A double mastectomy is by far the most aggressive intervention but it is a cure for those at a genetic risk of developing hereditary breast cancer.

 

Reports have not revealed which gene is defective in Mrs. Osbourne but it is likely either BRCA1 or BRCA2 - the two most commonly mutated genes in hereditary breast cancer.  Mutations in BRCA1 are easily screened and, if a mutation is found, can increase the risk of breast cancer by up to 60% before the age of 90.

 

BRCA1 is normally responsible for DNA repair, particularly when DNA has a double stranded break in it.  So when BRCA1 is missing, there is one less repair pathway functioning in the cell and an increased chance of accumulating mutations.  When mutations occur in key genes that control the cell division cycle, it can lead to uncontrolled division and a mass of cells we call a tumour.

 

BRCA2 has related functions in repairing double stranded DNA breaks as well, just at a different point than BRCA1.  What is interesting in the case of Mrs. Osbourne is that neither of these genes are commonly linked to incidences of colon cancer which may suggest she tested for a different gene that predisposes to breast cancer.  Unfortunately, I don't happen to have a swab of Mrs. Osbourne's DNA hanging around to test it to confirm my hypothesis but at least the trending on Twitter means that we can educate people about the risks and cures of breast cancer susceptibility.

 

Should you get tested for BRCA1 or 2?  If you have a family member who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age (under 40) then it is possible that your family carries the mutation that causes a predisposition.  But, you have to have two copies of the mutation to increase your risk that would possibly result in chopping off the tatas, so just because one of your family members has had to suffer through breast cancer, this just means you can get tested.

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