London: Scientists claim to have identified a gene which can increase the risk of male breast cancer by 50 per cent, a finding that could herald the development of new treatments for the rare disease.
During the world`s largest study into the disease, scientists screened the genetic codes of more than 800 male breast cancer patients which revealed that mutations in one particular gene play a role in the disease, and could lead to new treatments specifically for men.
"This study represents a leap forward in our understanding of male breast cancer," said researcher Dr Nick Orr, group leader at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Their crucial finding was that changes in the RAD51B gene ? which is involved in repair of damaged DNA ? can raise a man`s breast cancer risk by as much as 50 per cent.
Changes in a different part of RAD51B have been shown to raise risk of breast cancer in women
"For people who are already at high risk of breast cancer, for example men who have mutations in the BRCA2 gene, having this extra information could really help our ability to predict whether they are going to get the disease or not," Orr said in a statement.
Very little is known about the causes of male breast cancer, which is diagnosed in 350 men in the UK every year, compared with 48,000 women.
Previous studies have uncovered that faulty BRCA2 genes are involved in around 10 per cent of male breast cancer cases but they have now established that faulty RAD51B genes, which have also been found to increase the risk of breast cancer in women, also play a role in the disease in men.
The research published in Nature Genetics will help doctors predict whether men are more at risk of developing breast cancer.