In a study of Caribbean women, the Bahamas had the highest proportion of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (23%). Barbados was second in the percentage of hereditary cancer at almost 18%, followed by Trinidad & Tobago (12%), Dominica (8.8%), Haiti (6.7%), and Cayman Islands (6.3%, and Jamaica ranking as the lowest (4.9%).
All in all, one in seven of Caribbean-born individuals diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer had at least one inherited mutation. The mean age of patients with mutations was also younger, 40.7, compared to the 47.5 of patients without mutations.
Perhaps the most fascinating finding was the diversity of mutations among each of the island nations. Dr. Sophia George of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami Health System (above) said some might assume that women of African descent would have the same mutations.
“But we found that it was different from island to island,” she said. “Each country had its own spectrum of mutations. Each country had its own unique genetic fingerprint.”
At least 10% of the Black population in the U.S. is comprised of Caribbean-Americans, with pockets of high concentration in certain metro areas, including South Florida. While the American Cancer Society recommends screenings to start when women hit their 40s, Bahamian women with a first-degree breast cancer relative are advised to begin ultrasounds in their mid-twenties.
- See “Significant New Findings about Breast and Ovarian Cancer in Patients from the Caribbean” from the University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine (March 1, 2021)
- See the full text of the scientific paper “Gene Sequencing for Pathogenic Variants Among Adults With Breast and Ovarian Cancer in the Caribbean” by Sophia H. L. George et al.