We don’t like to think about breast cancer, but we all know of someone who has had breast cancer. You probably know that you would be at increased risk if someone in your family had a history of breast cancer. About 5-10% of breast cancer cases are due to inherited genetic mutations. That means that 90-95% are due to other factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, weight gain, stress, exposure to toxins (xenoestrogens) or hormone use.
What you may not know is that those who have a family history of other cancers, such as colon, prostate, or ovarian cancers also have a higher risk of breast cancer. So, for instance, if your father had colon or prostate cancer then you may also carry an altered gene increasing your risk of breast cancer. So who should be tested?
First of all..a first-degree relative is your parent, sibling or offspring. A second degree relative is everyone else.
People who should get tested include:
If you have a personal history of breast cancer or a biopsy that showed benign but high risk changes under the age of 50, you should get tested.
A first degree relative who had breast cancer under the age of 50, or tested positive for the breast cancer gene.
A first or second degree relative who had breast cancer in both breasts, or one who had both breast and ovarian cancer.
Three or more first or second degree relatives with breast cancer regardless of age.
A first degree relative with ovarian cancer.
A first or second degree male relative who had breast cancer (yes, guys can get breast cancer too).
One first degree relative or two second degree relatives who had breast or ovarian cancer IF you are of Ashkenazi Jewish, Dutch, Icelandic or Norwegian descent.
Most major hospitals have genetic counseling/testing programs. Consult a medical or surgical oncologist to discuss the details and follow-up care. You can also contact the National Cancer Institute, 1-800-422-6237, or http://www.cancer.gov/search/geneticsservices.
Reference: Smith, J. “Should You Be Screened for Breast cancer Genes?”. Bottom Line Women’s Health, Vol. 4, Number 4, April 2010.