Affordable Genetic Testing? Black Women Face Greater Breast Cancer Risks, But There is Hope

April 23, 2015  |  

Most of us know that African-American women have a higher predisposition to develop breast cancer, but there’s never been a solid answer to “Why?” A new study, according to Health Canal, says that the explanation lies within the density of the average Black woman’s bosom. But don’t worry, there’s hope.

Color Genomics, a Silicon Valley startup, is poised to make genetic testing for breast cancer more accessible.

A correlation has been found between breast density and breast cancer risk — the thicker it is, the more likely you’ll develop the malignant disease. And according to new research presented at the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting, Black women were found to have denser breast tissue than their white counterparts.

Black women in the study had a breast area density of 40.1 cm2 in comparison to White women’s 33.1 cm2.

After adjusting for body mass index, age, reproductive factors and hormone therapy, Black women’s breasts were still significantly more dense than the bosoms of their white counterparts. Women with the highest breast density are four-to-six times more likely to develop breast cancer in comparison to women with lower breast density.

“A better understanding of racial differences in breast density levels could help us identify women at the highest risk for breast cancer and target prevention strategies to those women,” said Anne Marie McCarthy, PhD, a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

And prevention strategies are looking promising, according to The New York Times. Color Genomics, in the words of their CEO Dr. Elad Gil, aims to “democratize access to genetic testing.” The company is planning to charge $249 for testing BRCA1, BRCA2, and 15 other breast cancer risk genes — this rate is one-tenth of the price that the market currently offers.

Generally, insurers do not cover breast cancer genetic testing, unless a woman already contracted the malicious disease or has a history of breast or ovarian cancer in her family. Color Genomics is providing low-cost genetic tests so that women can pay out of pocket. Dr. Gil is even starting a program to offer free tests for women who cannot afford it.

Color Genomics is planning to allow women to order these tests through its website and send in their saliva samples. He assures customers that ” a doctor will be involved in every order and in the test results,” the NY Times adds.

The startup has raised $15 million so far with backers such as Steve Jobs’ widow and the co-founder of Yahoo.

There is hope.

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