What You Need to Know: The risk of developing cancer in a salivary gland might be higher in people with mutations in either of two genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. Salivary gland cancer is rare, but this new study suggests it occurs 17 times more often in people with inherited mutations in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Background: It is well known that women who inherit mutations in either of two genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2) have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer than women without the mutation; men with the mutations are at higher risk of breast cancer. The two mutated genes are also linked to prostate, pancreatic and other cancers.

What’s New? Researchers searched a large BRCA-gene-mutation database (maintained by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — James Clinical Cancer Genetics Program) for salivary gland cancers. Out of 5,754 people with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, the researchers identified three cases of salivary gland cancer (0.052 percent).

Notes co-author Theodoros Teknos, MD: “I would like physicians and dentists to realize that BRCA mutations carry risks for salivary gland cancer as well as breast cancer, and to remember that salivary glands include not only the paired parotid glands and submandibular glands but also innumerable minor salivary glands in the oral cavity,” Teknos says.

My Take: Salivary cancers are rare, but we have data suggesting that those with a BRCA gene mutation may be at higher risk of the disease. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Secondary reference: Tim K. Shen, Theodoros N. Teknos, Amanda E. Toland, Leigha Senter, Rebecca Nagy. Salivary Gland Cancer inBRCA-Positive Families. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2014.1998;

Primary reference: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Potential link between breast cancer genes, salivary gland cancer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141008131450.htm>.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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