Ask the Care Team! Breast Cancer Risk-The Genetic Component

What percentage of women’s cancers have a genetic component? Am I more at risk if there is a history of breast cancer on my mother’s side or my father’s side?

Based on what we know today, about 5 percent of all cancers, including women’s cancers, result from an inherited predisposition to cancer. That means the majority occur independent of a family history and instead are likely a result of environmental or behavioral risk factors With new research constantly under way, leaders in Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention believe there are many more cancer genes still to be identified. These discoveries could help researchers understand why some families are more prone to certain cancers, which would lead to better screening or other prevention methods. If you are concerned that cancer runs in your family, the signs that suggest a hereditary link include:

• Multiple cancers within a family

• Cancers occurring at an early age (before the age of 50)

• Multiple cancers in the same person

• Male breast cancer

There is no evidence to show that a history of breast cancer on a mother’s side versus a father’s side is more significant each child has a 50-50 chance that the cancer predisposition will be passed along to him or her, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is significant to note, not everyone with a predisposition will develop cancer. It is important to visit your doctor to get regular Pap smears and mammograms, and to know your family history so you and your doctor can determine a proper screening plan and access your true risk.

Turning Points

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute






















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