A team of researchers with the University of Amsterdam Academy Medical Center has rejected the notion that Jewish genetics are at the root of an increased risk of cancer among sufferers of Gaucher disease.
Gaucher — a fat-storage disease — is found most commonly among Ashkenazic Jews. The medical community has known for more than three decades that Jewish Gaucher patients are more susceptible to blood-related cancers than those without the disease.
What the new Dutch study shows, however, is that Jewish Gaucher sufferers are no more likely to develop blood cancer than non-Jews afflicted with the disease.
To eliminate Jewish genetics as a possible cause of the elevated cancer risk, the team created a sample made up primarily of non-Jews.
“In the previous study, all the participants were Jewish,” said Maaike de Fost, one of the researchers on the Dutch team. “In our study, less than 10% of the patients were known to be of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.”
The study showed that Gaucher patients — both Jewish and non-Jewish — are 12.7% more likely than the population as a whole to develop blood-related cancers.
“This means that the previously found increased risk of developing cancer cannot be attributed solely to ethnic origin, but — at least, for a large part — to having Gaucher disease,” she said.
De Fost hopes the team’s findings will lead to more studies that shed light on changes associated with and resulting from Gaucher. In the meantime, while hematologists and oncologists continue to search for preventive measures, she recommends that Gaucher patients be cognizant of the cancer risks associated with their disease, so as to allow for the possibility of early detection.
“Multiple myeloma is by no means an easy thing to treat,” she said. “It is a very nasty form of cancer, but at the beginning stages there are some treatments.”
For more information on multiple-myeloma treatments, visit the Multiple Myeloma Treatment Research Foundation Web site, www.multiplemyeloma.org/treatments.
For more information on extraneous health risks related to Gaucher disease, visit the National Gaucher Foundation Web site, www.gaucherdisease.org.