New Findings Ease Your Breast Cancer Concerns By Approximately 1%

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There's comforting news today for women whose relatives have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations: Despite the findings of a 2007 study, if you don't have the mutation, your risk of developing breast cancer isn't much higher than any other woman's.


Since the mutations increase a woman's risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers by five to 20 times, doctors say that when a woman tests positive her family members should be screened too. Relatives who test negative are usually told that they only have to worry about having a slightly elevated risk due to a family history of cancer. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a 2007 study published in the Journal of Medical Genetics suggested women with abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes in the family are five times more likely to develop breast cancer, even if only their mother or sister has the mutation.

Thankfully, a new study out of Stanford University proves that isn't true. Researchers looked at 3,000 families from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, including 300 who had the gene mutation. They found that the noncarriers didn't have an increased risk of breast cancer. The researchers believe that the 2007 study of 277 British families with the mutation showed a higher risk because the subjects were being tested more frequently for breast cancer.

Dr. Hope Rugo, director of breast oncology clinical trials program at UC San Francisco says that the previous study made genetic testing even more stressful for women, because they didn't know if they could really relax after testing negative for the mutations. The new study confirms that those who don't have the mutation don't need to worry about taking agressive measures to protect themselves against breast cancer.

Reassuring Study On Breast Cancer Genetic Mutation [San Francisco Chronicle]

Image via Breast Cancer Doesn't Necessarily Run In The Family


Stephan Zielinski

Abstract at [] . Clicking on the "PDF" link will download the paper itself to your machine. Shoot, there's even a podcast...

(To save people some clicking: the paper concludes, "In summary, we found no evidence for an increase in breast cancer risk for noncarriers of a family-specific BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation in this study of 3,047 population-based families recruited from three countries. These results support the standard clinical practice of advising noncarriers that they do not have any increase in breast cancer risk attributable to the family-specific BRCA mutation and, in the absence of other strong risk factors, should follow general population guidelines for breast cancer screening." So, not just "isn't much higher"; this study suggests NO higher.)