Breast cancer diagnosed in younger women tends to be more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to come back.
A study found that breast cancers from 200 women diagnosed before age 45 all had a large group of genes in common. The group of genes is linked to factors that can promote the development, growth, and spread of cancer cells. In comparison, breast cancers from more than 200 women age 65 and older didn't have any gene groups in common.
Though there's still much to learn, research over the years has led to a better understanding of how cancer happens. This knowledge helped scientists create targeted breast cancer treatments such as Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) and Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib).
Genetic mistakes of one kind or another usually cause the development and growth of cancer cells. These genetic mistakes allow cells to become cancerous -- to develop, multiply, and spread in uncontrolled, abnormal ways.
Many of the genes that breast cancer cells from younger women had in common already have been linked to cancerous cell behavior. And many of these genes are the targets of targeted therapy medicines already approved to treat breast and other cancers. Researchers hope that a more complete understanding of the genetic profile of breast cancer in younger women will lead to the creation of new targeted therapies in the future.
Stay tuned to Breastcancer.org for the latest news on research that may lead to better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat breast cancer.