To put these risks in perspective, Metcalfe said a typical woman who tests positive for BRCA1 or 2 has an 80 percent lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, while women such as those in her study with a strong family history but no BRCA1 or 2 mutation have about a 40 percent lifetime risk. The average woman has about a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, she said.
While other studies have found similarly increased risks of breast cancer among women with a strong family history, the current study adds to the information, Metcalfe said. "What we were able to observe were the differences in age," she said.
The new study confirms previous research, said Dr. Shawna Willey, director of the Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C.
Women with this strong family history might consider more frequent screening, including breast MRI, said Willey. "They could be a candidate for chemoprevention," she said, referring to the use of anti-cancer drugs such as tamoxifen in high-risk people.
Find out more about BRCA at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCE: Kelly Metcalfe, Ph.D., associate professor, nursing, University of Toronto; Shawna Willey, M.D., breast surgeon and director, Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center, Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, and president, American Society of Breast Surgeons; Nov. 17, 2008, presentation, Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, American Academy of Cancer Research, Washington, D.C.
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