MIAMI (CBS4) — South Florida is a melting pot of cultures and with that comes a melting pot of genetic issues. In South Florida, there’s a doctor who is looking at breast cancer among women just off our shores with the hope that it’ll lead to answers right back here at home.

Dr. Judith Hurley has been working with breast cancer patients at the University of Miami for years. Her patients come from all over, but she was seeing one troubling trend in the Caribbean.

“One day I thought you know every single woman that I see from the Bahamas with breast cancer is really young,” explained Dr. Hurley.

After doing research with oncologists in the Bahamas, the evidence was pointing in one direction. The women who had breast cancer in the Bahamas were younger than the women in the United States. So with grants from the Komen For the Cure, she expanded the testing.

“We know that women who have an inherited form of breast cancer have a younger age of onset of their breast cancer,” said Dr. Hurley.

The inherited form comes from the BRCA gene mutation. After about 18 months of BRCA genetic testing on saliva samples from Bahamian women, they found startling information.

“We are double the highest reported rate in the world,” said Dr. Hurley.

The next step was to counsel the families about the mutation and the risk.

“The gene is passed along from mother to daughter, or father to daughter, or father to son. It can come from both sides. It doesn’t just come from your mom,” according to Dr. Hurley.

Dr. Hurley’s findings in the Caribbean could have a big impact here in South Florida.

“If you can begin to get ideas on how to deal with breast cancer in the African Caribbean group, maybe that window can be opened larger and you can start exporting that information to African American women,” said Dr. Hurley.

For more information about breast cancer education, diagnosis and treatment, just go to this website, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Chapter.

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