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Risk for Women with Family History  

My mother had breast cancer. Does this mean I am at greater risk?

Statistics often can create a great deal of confusion and anxiety ó triggering unfounded alarm. Having a first degree relative (e.g., mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer can double a womanís risk of developing breast cancer. However, whether or not a woman with a family history of breast cancer will ever develop breast cancer depends upon many risk factors.

Research has discovered some abnormalities (mutations) in certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. These mutated BRCA genes can be passed genetically either from mother to child or from father to child.

Just because your mother had breast cancer, however, does not mean that a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes was present, and does not mean that you have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Only 1 in 10 women with breast cancer have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Breast cancer due to an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene tends to happen at an early age (before menopause and/or under the age of 40 or 50), in multiple relatives, and in one or both breasts (but usually not at the same time).

Even if you have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, it does not mean you will get breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Women with a mutated BRCA1 gene have a 50% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Women with a mutated BRCA2 gene have a 50% to 60% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. [1] Furthermore, medical options for women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

It is important to remember that, in addition to genetics, there are many other risk factors (for example, diet and lifetime exposure to estrogen) for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The presence of an abnormal gene represents only one of the risk factors for these cancers.

You can take charge of maintaining breast health. Be diligent about monitoring the health of your breasts and staying current with self breast exams, clinical breast exams, and mammograms. Consult your doctor for advice on other preventative measures that you can consider.

The key is to not allow yourself to be consumed with worry. A healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude are great contributors to wellness.

REFERENCE:

1. American Cancer Society. Glossary.



Questions Related to Risk for Women with Family History
Does antibiotic use increase breast cancer risk?
What does the term, "risk factor" for cancer (including breast cancer), mean?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago, but I am now in remission. Am I at a higher risk of getting the disease again in the future?
Can benign cysts become cancerous?
I have no family history of breast cancer. Why should I worry about getting breast cancer?
Is there anything I can do to lower my risk of getting breast cancer?
Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) increase my breast cancer risk?
What is the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool?
What women are at risk for breast cancer?
What risk factors are most important in determining my likelihood of getting breast cancer?
If I didnít nurse my children, am I at greater risk of breast cancer?
Does exposure to toxins and chemicals in the environment increase oneís risk of breast cancer?
Do breast implants increase your risk of breast cancer?
Does radiation exposure increase your breast cancer risk?
What is the connection between estrogen and breast cancer?
I have had fertility treatments. Does this increase my risk of breast cancer?
If I take birth control pills, am I at greater risk of getting breast cancer?
What are phytoestrogens? Do they cause breast cancer?
What causes breast cancer?
What are the risk factors that put a woman at a higher risk for breast cancer?
What risk factors for breast cancer can you control?
What risk factors for breast cancer can you not control?
I started menstruating at a very young age. Am I at greater risk of getting breast cancer?
If I am overweight, am I at a greater risk of developing breast cancer?
I've heard that being overweight before menopause helps lower your risk of breast cancer. Is this true?
Is there a link between alcohol and breast cancer?
Why does alcohol consumption increase the risk of breast cancer ?
Can exercise reduce breast cancer risk?
Does a woman's height influence her breast cancer risk?
I have never had children. Am I at a greater risk for breast cancer?
Why does starting menstruation at an earlier age slightly increase your risk of breast cancer?
I began menopause later than average. Does this put me at increased risk for breast cancer?
Can I inherit breast cancer from my mother or other women in my family?
I often experience breast pain. What is this pain? Does the breast pain mean that I am more likely to get breast cancer?
I have very lumpy breasts. Does this mean I will develop breast cancer or am at high risk?
Iíve been told that I have high breast density. What is high breast density? Does this increase my risk of breast cancer?
Are women who have fibrocystic changes in their breasts at higher risk for breast cancer?
Is there a link between smoking and breast cancer?
Does stress increase your risk of breast cancer?
Does abortion increase a woman's risk of breast cancer?
If I am HIV-positive, can I breastfeed my baby?
If I am being treated for AIDS, can I breastfeed my baby?
If I take aspirin or ibuprofen regularly, will the medication increase my risk of developing breast cancer?
What is the connection between dietary fats and fiber and risk of breast cancer?
Can eating soy foods affect the risk of developing breast cancer?
Do statin drugs lower the risk of breast cancer?
Does estrogen replacement therapy increase my risk of breast cancer?
I often experience mastalgia. What causes mastalgia? Does mastalgia mean that I am more likely to get breast cancer?
Does using antiperspirants raise the risk of breast cancer?
Ever since I was a teenager, one of my breasts is larger than the other breast. Does this affect my risk of breast cancer?

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