Mary-Claire King made a free public address at the Morehouse School of Medicine on Thursday, March 19, to discuss “Inherited Breast Cancer: From Gene Discovery to Public Health.”

African American women are more often diagnosed with aggressive, late-stage breast cancers — resulting in mortality rates that are 44% higher than for Caucasian women. Now, leading medical researchers, including University of Washington geneticist and Lasker Laureate Mary-Claire King, recommend that early genetic screenings for all women can save lives.

Her discovery of the BRCA ‘breast cancer gene’ in 1990 demonstrated the mechanism of inherited cancer and pointed to the specific gene mutation that could predict vulnerability to the disease. Then, just last year, startling new findings indicated that mutations in the BRCA breast cancer gene are as likely in women in the general population as they are for those with a family history of breast cancer. Because of this, she urges universal genetic testing for all women over the age 30.