Oestrogen exposure has long been considered to be a main risk factor of breast cancer. More recently, interest has also focused on the possible carcinogenic influence from oestrogen metabolites, such as catechol oestrogens. O-methylation, catalysed by Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT), is one pathway by which the potentially carcinogenic catechol oestrogens can be inactivated. The gene coding for COMT protein contains a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), resulting in an amino acid shift Val-->Met, which has been shown to determine high- and low-activity configuration of the enzyme. We hypothesized that the low-activity allele, COMT(Met), may be implicated in early onset breast cancer. In the present case-control study, including 126 young breast cancer patients (<or= 36 years) and 117 healthy female blood donors, we analysed the association between COMT(Met) genotype and risk of breast cancer. No significant difference in the frequency of low-/high-activity alleles was found between cases and controls, indicating that the polymorphism, as a single factor, may not contribute to breast carcinogenesis in young women.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign http://www.bjcancer.com.