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Scientists from the University of Cambridge in England believe they have identified a gene which is responsible for the development of breast cancer in a recent study.
The report, which was published in the journal Oncogene, named NRG1 (neuregulin-1) as the genetic material located on chromosome 8, that, when functioning properly, plays a role in suppressing the growth of cancer. The study found that damage to the NRG1 gene was very common in patients with breast cancer, BBC news reports.
Dr Paul Edwards, the study's lead researcher told the news source, "We have got strong evidence that the gene is implicated in breast cancer but we have no reason to think it's not the same for other cancers, including prostate and colon cancer." He added that the discovery constitutes "enormous help" in determining the biological causes of these types of cancer.
Experts in the field have called the research development a "major step forward" and the "most important tumor suppresser gene discovery in the last 20 years" to describe the magnitude of understanding the genetics of cancer risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, a total of 41,116 women and 375 men died from breast cancer.
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