Increased rates of chromosome breakage in BRCA1 carriers are normalized by oral selenium supplementation.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 May ;14(5):1302-6. PMID: 15894690
Women who are born with constitutional heterozygous mutations of the BRCA1 gene face greatly increased risks of breast and ovarian cancer. The product of the BRCA1 gene is involved in the repair of double-stranded DNA breaks and it is believed that increased susceptibility to DNA breakage contributes to the cancer phenotype. It is hoped therefore that preventive strategies designed to reduce chromosome damage will also reduce the rate of cancer in these women. To test for increased mutagenicity of cells from BRCA1 carriers, the frequency of chromosome breaks was measured in cultured blood lymphocytes following in vitro exposure to bleomycin in female BRCA1 carriers and was compared with noncarrier relatives. The frequency of chromosome breaks was also measured in BRCA1 carriers following oral selenium supplementation. Carriers of BRCA1 mutations showed significantly greater mean frequencies of induced chromosome breaks per cell than did healthy noncarrier relatives (0.58 versus 0.39; P<10(-4)). The frequency of chromosome breaks was greatly reduced following 1 to 3 months of oral selenium supplementation (mean, 0.63 breaks per cell versus 0.40; P<10(-10)). The mean level of chromosome breaks in carriers following supplementation was similar to that of the noncarrier controls (0.40 versus 0.39). Oral selenium is a good candidate for chemoprevention in women who carry a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.