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Familial BRCA mutation alone doesn't increase a woman's risk of breast cancer

Women who have a relative with breast cancer face an increased risk of contracting the disease. But what about those women who are related to a patient with a breast cancer caused by a hereditary mutation -- but who don't have the mutation themselves? Are they at an even higher risk of getting cancer? That was the question explored by a recent Stanford study, and the researchers found that the answer was "no."

In the largest study of its kind to date, the researchers used cancer registries in three countries to look at 3,047 families. Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes - which are strongly associated with the development of breast or ovarian cancer - were seen in 292 families. The team then compared relatives of cancer patients with the mutation to a control group of relatives of cancer patients without the mutation and found that those in the first group faced no higher risk of getting cancer.

As I wrote in a release:

The multinational, population-based study... settles a controversy that arose four years ago when a paper hinted that a familial BRCA mutation in and of itself was a risk factor.

"The results are encouraging and reassuring," said Allison Kurian, MD, assistant professor of oncology and of health research and policy and first author of [the paper]. She and her colleagues -- including senior author Alice Whittemore, PhD, professor of health research and policy -- said their findings support the current practice of advising so-called non-carriers that there is no increase in risk attributable to their family-specific BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

The paper appears online today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Photo by jrubinic

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