Women who have a gene associated with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer may also have a reduced number of eggs in their ovaries, according to a new study.
Women who have the BRCA1 mutation, also carried by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, have been urged by scientists not to delay their pregnancy to an age when it becomes difficult. These women have a restricted “reserve” of eggs, scientists say.
Women carrying the gene should encounter no problems trying to conceive if they start young. However, delaying trying to get pregnant until they are in their 30s or 40s could pose difficulties. The problem, which affects a hormone, may not be resolved by fertility treatment as well.
The Anti Mullerian Hormone, AMH, influences women’s “ovarian reserve,” which has the ability to impact fertility. Those carrying the BRCA1 have been found to also have lower levels of AMH.
The study, conducted by scientists in Australia including British experts from universities in Edinburgh and St Andrews, analyzed a sample of 693 women between the ages of 25 and 45 years. The findings revealed that those carrying the BRCA1 gene had 25 percent lower levels of AMH.
As reported by Daily Mail, only three in 1,000 women have the gene. Jolie, who was also carrying the BRCA1 mutation, had to have her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower the possibility of contracting cancer.
Lead scientist Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips said, “Women in their mid-30s, who carry the BRCA1 mutation, have, on average, ovarian reserves similar to those of non-carriers who are two years older.”
Phillips, who is also a consultant medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in East Melbourne, Australia, emphasized that the gene defect may not always pose difficulties, Mirror.co.uk reported. While women having low AMH may be able to conceive, those with high AMH are sometimes not able to.
“Our findings suggest that women carrying the BRCA1 mutation should try to avoid delaying pregnancy until their late 30s or 40s when fertility is reduced anyway because of their age,” she added. “For women trying to conceive in their 20s, any difference in ovarian reserve between BRCA1 mutation carriers and non-carriers is unlikely to be of clinical significance.”