About Hereditary CancerHereditary cancers, also called inherited cancers, are those caused by genetic mutations that are passed from parent to child. These mutations predispose people to developing a particular type of cancer. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common cause of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers and can lead to male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and others. Women with a BRCA mutation are five times more likely to develop breast cancer than those without the mutation and more than ten times as likely to develop ovarian cancer 1. Approximately 7% 2 of breast cancer and approximately 14% 3,4,5 of invasive ovarian cancer result from inherited gene mutations. DNA testing for BRCA mutations is done through a blood or saliva test and can indicate whether a person carries a BRCA gene mutation. Testing is recommended for people with certain personal and/or family history pattern, including:
- A personal history of breast cancer at an early age 6
- A personal history of ovarian cancer at any age
- A strong family history of breast cancer at an early age
- A family history of breast and ovarian cancers
- A family history of male breast cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (who also have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer)
- Claus EB, Schildkraut JM, Thompson WD, Risch NJ. The genetic attributable risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Cancer. 1996;77:2318-24.
- Risch HA, McLaughlin JR, Cole DEC, et al. Prevalence and penetrance of germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in a population series of 649 women with ovarian cancer. American Journal of Human Genetics. 2001;68:700-710.
- Pal T, Permuth-Wey J, Betts JA, et al. BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for a large proportion of ovarian carcinoma cases. Cancer. 2005;104(12):2807-2816.
- Zhang S. et al. Frequencies of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations among 1,342 unselected patients with invasive ovarian cancer. Gynecol Oncol. 2011 May 1; 121(2):352-7.
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