January 18, 1996
Web posted at: 6:45 a.m. EST
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A new test for early colon cancer is more effective than the most common one, researchers reported Thursday.
A recent study indicates that a new test that looks for blood in the stool is more effective in detecting colon cancer than the more popular test, Haemoccult II.
The study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine says that 8,0104 people over 50 were asked to place stool samples on cards for Haemoccult I and for Haemoccult II Sensa and HemeSelect, two newer tests.
The people were screened for colon cancer on the basis of at least one stool test.
Researchers then waited two years to see which patients developed colon cancer. HemeSelect worked best, correctly identifying 69 percent with colon cancer and ruling out 94 percent.
The research team, headed by Dr. James Allison of Kaizer Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, California, said using HemeSelect only if the Haemoccult II Sensa test produced a positive result detected 66 percent of tumors and correctly ruled out the disease in 97 percent of the cases.
Haemoccult II didn't perform as well as the newer tests, detecting only 37 percent of the colon cancer tumors.
BOSTON (CNN) -- Medical researchers reported Thursday that about one in 10 women under the age of 35 who develop breast cancer have a defective gene.
A study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine says that the gene, known as BRCA1, is not restricted to women with family histories of breast or ovarian cancer.
In a separate report by a group of Boston doctors in the journal, the defective BRCA1 is identified as the source of 20 percent of breast cancers in Jewish women who develop a tumor by age 40.
Mutations in BRCA1 are believed to be responsible for half of all cases of hereditary breast cancer, but it is not known whether the gene plays a role in non-inherited cases, which make up 90 percent of the 182,000 breast cancers annually found in American women.
Defects in the gene, located on chromosome 17, also seem to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
In the same issue of the journal, doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said their study of Ashkenazi Jews -- 1 percent of whom are known to have a defect in BRCA1 -- showed the mutation "plays a significant role in the early onset of breast cancer in Jewish women."
At present, doctors are unsure what to tell patients found to have a defect in their BRCA1 gene because it is not clear which of the nearly 100 defects are important or how dangerous they are.
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