Posted 3 years ago
Hereditary Breast Cancer – Am I At Risk?
On average, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance to develop breast cancer in her lifetime and approximately 10-15 percent of these cases are thought to be hereditary. Someone’s family history, genetic factors, and ancestry are all important risk factors that can influence someone’s breast cancer risk. That’s why October, which is breast cancer awareness month, is a good time to raise awareness for the hereditary side of breast cancer.
The two most common genes associated with hereditary breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Men and women all carry two copies of both BRCA1 and BRCA2; one copy comes from their mother and the other copy comes from their father. These genes help protect us from breast and other cancers by repairing damage in our DNA. If either of these genes is not working properly (mutated), then that individual will have a higher risk to develop breast and other cancer types.
While BRCA gene mutations are rare, certain populations have a much higher risk of inheriting a BRCA mutation. BRCA mutations are responsible for approximately 10% of breast cancer and 40% of ovarian cancer cases in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Currently, less is known about the prevalence of BRCA mutations in other populations.
Although the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for 5 to 10 percent of hereditary breast cancers, there have more recently been other genes identified that are associated with an increased risk for breast and other cancer types. These genes include PALB2, ATM, CHEK2, and TP53 amongst others.
Some of the more common characteristics of a family with an inherited risk for breast cancer may include breast cancer occurring under the age of 50, triple-negative breast cancer, or ovarian cancer. As the field of genetics continues to evolve, it is likely that other genes with an association with breast cancer risk will be identified.
Knowing if you have an inherited risk for breast or other cancers can allow for the pursuit of increased screening or preventative procedures, as well as to aide in identifying other family members that may carry the same hereditary cancer risk. If you are concerned about your possible inherited risk of breast cancer, or if your previous genetic testing only included BRCA1 and BRCA2, we encourage you to talk with your providers about testing or updated testing.
Mandy Kass, MS, CGC
As a certified oncology genetic counselor, Mandy works with patients who have a personal and/or family history of cancer to assess their risk of having an inherited cancer predisposition. This information allows for the pursuit of early detection or possibly prevention of certain cancer types.
The ultimate goal of cancer genetic counseling is to empower patients to use their personal risk information to better inform treatment and management decisions and to educate family members on their possible cancer risks.
Mandy obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Arizona State University in 2013. She then went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College and graduated in 2016. Her training in genetic counseling included clinical rotations at several locations throughout New York City, including Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and Bellevue Hospital.
About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program, and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit www.ironwoodcrc.com.