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Speakers announced for Westray genetics event

Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka, of the University of Aberdeen, is among the researchers who discovered this mutation in the BRCA1 gene.

An event focused on a genetic mutation with Westray origins will include two speakers from the island, and an appearance from NHS Orkney’s chief executive.

Next Wednesday night’s Wur Westray Connection event will be led by the researcher who discovered the Orkney-specific variation in the BRCA1 gene.

Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka will be the key speaker in a programme which also includes Westray Development Trust’s Gina Rendall, and NHS Orkney board chairperson Meghan McEwen, a Westray resident.

The event at the Orkney Theatre is being hosted by CLAN Cancer Support, which has been hosting drop-in sessions in Westray since the genetic variant was revealed.

The DNA mutation was born and bred in Westray during the 17th and 18th centuries. Research by the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen has found that one in 100 people with Orcadian grandparents has a BRCA1 variant. Those with Westray-born grandparents could have an increased likelihood of carrying the Orkney mutation — officially called BRCA1 V1736A. The variant can be inherited from either a father or mother, and significantly heightens a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

Karen Scott, CLAN’s cancer support services area manager, was one of those involved in the initial research, having Westray ancestry and a history of breast cancer herself.

She told The Orcadian this week: “CLAN Cancer Support are delighted to be able to invite Prof Zosia Miedzybrodzka back to Orkney to allow those with Westray connections to find out how the testing could be rolled out beyond Westray.

“We would highly recommend folk book their free seat to ensure they are able to hear Zosia’s presentation. There are posters with the QR code all over Orkney, in the press and on social media, but if anyone has issues with logging on, they can contact Clan on 873393 and book their seat. We will need their name, contact details and number of seats required.”

Wur Westray Connection will also feature a Q&A session compèred by BBC Radio Orkney’s David Delday.

The Q&A panel is set to include NHS Orkney’s chief executive, Laura Skaife-Knight.

Tickets to the event on Wednesday, November 22, are free but must be booked in advance.

For further information, visit www.tickettailor.com/events/clancancersupport/1045910