AM Dunning, M Chiano, NR Smith, J Dearden, M Gore, S Oakes, C Wilson, M Stratton, J Peto, D Easton, D Clayton, BA Ponder
Hum Mol Genet
Most multiple case families of young onset breast cancer and ovarian cancer are thought to be due to highly penetrant mutations in the predisposing genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, these mutations are uncommon in the population and they probably account for only a few percent of all breast cancer incidence. A much larger fraction of breast cancer might, in principle, be due to common variants which confer more modest individual risks. There are several common polymorphisms in the BRCA1 gene which generate amino acid substitutions. We have examined the frequency of four of these polymorphisms: Gln356Arg, Pro871Leu, Glu1038Gly and Ser1613Gly in large series of breast and ovarian cancer cases and matched controls. Due to strong linkage disequilibrium, these four sites generate only three haplotypes with a frequency > 1.3%. The most common haplotypes, defined by the alleles Gln356Pro871Glu1038Ser1613 and Gln356Leu871Gly1038Gly1613, have frequencies of 0.57 and 0.32 respectively, and these frequencies do not differ significantly between patient and control groups. Thus the most common polymorphisms of the BRCA1 gene do not make a significant contribution to breast or ovarian cancer risk. However, our data suggest that the Arg356 allele may have a different genotype distribution in breast cancer patients from that in controls (Arg356 homozygotes are more frequent in the control groups, P = 0.01), indicating that it may be protective against breast cancer. If this finding can be confirmed, it may provide an insight into the structural features of the BRCA1 protein that are important for its function.