Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Ghanaian Connection

Although the incidence of breast cancer is 10% lower in African-Americans (AA), the death rate is considerably higher. (5 year survival 77% vs 90% for non-African Americans). Part of this could be access to health care but a large part of it is probably due to the higher incidence of TNBC among AAs vs non-AAs (30% vs 10%).
Meanwhile in Ghana, an equatorial nation on the West Coast of Africa, source of many slaves, the rate of TNBC is 60%.  Could AAs and Ghanaians share a common gene that predisposes them to TNBC? If so, could AAs be tested in advance and be warned? Is this gene in nonAAs too? The BRAC1 deletion is responsible for 10% of TNBC cases. There must be other genetic mutations too.

 Dr. Lisa Newman who will give a lecture tonight is investigating this Ghanaian connection. I am very curious as to what she has found. However, her topic tonight will not be on this. She instead will be discussing options for Advanced Breast Cancer, interesting in itself. I don't have advanced breast cancer to my knowledge but to me, there is just a thin line separating me from it. My disease was oxymoronically termed 'locally advanced' meaning it went beyond the duct into the surrounding tissues including the lymphatic system but there was no evidence it went beyond the breast. They said there was a 50% chance that it did and that was what the chemo was for.

One of my many questions for her is if there is a Yoruba connection as well, a large subgroup of Nigerians who have made their way, against their wills, to the Americas. This group has the highest twinning rate in the world. Either they have a gene for super-ovulating or their diet subsisting of very estrogen rich yams (not related at all to the American yam) may contribute to this. Of course all this excess estrogen probably would contribute more to ER+ BC, not TNBC. As many AAs may have Yoruba ancestry, their higher rate of  fraternal twins could be due to this. African yams, though, are rare here. There is a Mexican yam that was used as starting material for oral contraceptives. Steroids are very hard to make from scratch.

Maybe her research is too secret to reveal. I hope not.

For our last dinner last night with Shanna et al, I made lava cakes (among more nutritious foods). The deal is that you have to undercook them so that there is a liquid, chocolaty center. But I overdid it so they were like mini tortes. Tasty but I was disappointed in myself. With the excess egg whites, I made meringues too. Daniel wanted to taste. Unfortunately egg whites are on his weakly allergenic list. After 2 bites, a rash appeared around his mouth 10 minutes later.

They are starting their long drive back to Boston today. Due to Ramy's recent procedure, Shanna will do all the driving. I see lake effect snow in the way, which makes me nervous. I will be relieved when they safely make it home sometime tomorrow. This morning, there is a dusting of snow on the ground. Yuck. I will lift weights at the Y.

I just received a phone call. The talk will be postponed until a later date. I was looking so forward to it.

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