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Inherited Predisposition to Breast Cancer in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study


Walsh, Tom; Gulsuner, Suleyman; Lee, Ming K.; Troester, Melissa A.; Olshan, Andrew F.; Earp, H. Shelton; Perou, Charles M.; & King, Mary-Claire (2021). Inherited Predisposition to Breast Cancer in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study. NPJ Breast Cancer, 7(1), 6. PMCID: PMC7820260


The Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS) phases I-II was a case-control study of biological and social risk factors for invasive breast cancer that enrolled cases and controls between 1993 and 1999. Case selection was population-based and stratified by ancestry and age at diagnosis. Controls were matched to cases by age, self-identified race, and neighborhood of residence. Sequencing genomic DNA from 1370 cases and 1635 controls yielded odds ratios (with 95% confidence limits) for breast cancer of all subtypes of 26.7 (3.59, 189.1) for BRCA1, 8.8 (3.44, 22.48) for BRCA2, and 9.0 (2.06, 39.60) for PALB2; and for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) of 55.0 (7.01, 431.4) for BRCA1, 12.1 (4.18, 35.12) for BRCA2, and 10.8 (1.97, 59.11) for PALB2. Overall, 5.6% of patients carried a pathogenic variant in BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, or TP53, the four most highly penetrant breast cancer genes. Analysis of cases by tumor subtype revealed the expected association of TNBC versus other tumor subtypes with BRCA1, and suggested a significant association between TNBC versus other tumor subtypes with BRCA2 or PALB2 among African-American (AA) patients [2.95 (1.18, 7.37)], but not among European-American (EA) patients [0.62 (0.18, 2.09)]. AA patients with pathogenic variants in BRCA2 or PALB2 were 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC versus another tumor subtype than were EA patients with pathogenic variants in either of these genes (Pā€‰=ā€‰0.001). If this pattern is confirmed in other comparisons of similarly ascertained AA and EA breast cancer patients, it could in part explain the higher prevalence of TNBC among AA breast cancer patients.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type


Year Published


Journal Title

NPJ Breast Cancer


Walsh, Tom
Gulsuner, Suleyman
Lee, Ming K.
Troester, Melissa A.
Olshan, Andrew F.
Earp, H. Shelton
Perou, Charles M.
King, Mary-Claire



Data Set/Study

Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS)


United States of America