Salivary gland cancer is rare, but this retrospective study suggests it occurs 17 times more often in people with inherited mutations in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 than those in the general population.
“Further study is needed to confirm this preliminary result, but I believe that a BRCA-positive patient with a lump in a salivary gland should have that lesion evaluated as soon as possible,” says co-author Theodoros Teknos, MD, professor and chair of the Department Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Ohio State.
It is well known that women who inherit mutations in either of the two genes have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer than women without the mutation; men with the mutations also are at higher risk of breast cancer. The two mutated genes are linked to prostate, pancreatic and other cancers as well.
Teknos recommends that individuals who carry a BRCA mutation be made aware of this possible association with salivary gland cancer, and that the study’s findings be considered during genetic counseling of families with inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.
He adds that in the future, patients with salivary-gland cancer and their family members might be referred for BRCA testing, or carriers of BRCA mutations might undergo surveillance for salivary gland cancers.
Cancers of the salivary glands are rare in the United States, with about three cases occurring annually per 100,000 adults in the general population (0.003 percent).