Study Confirms Value of Family-History Knowledge for Young Women with Breast Cancer

 Behind the Cancer Headlines®

April 1, 2003 


A UK study published as a research letter in The Lancet highlights the importance of detailed family-history knowledge to help identify women with pathogenic gene mutations for breast cancer.  

Women who carry mutations of BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes have a much higher lifetime risk of breast cancer—up to 80%—with non-carriers. A family history of breast cancer can be an indication of BRCA1/BRCA2 status.  

Fiona Lalloo from St. Marys Hospital, Manchester, UK, and colleagues assessed BRCA1/BRCA2 status and detailed family history for young women (aged 30 years or younger) in northwest England.  

Approximately one-third of women assessed (36 of 99) had a strong family history of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer, although this was not reported in hospital notes for more than half of these cases. 44% of women with a family history had mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 compared with only 6% of women without a family history of breast cancer.  

Fiona Lalloo comments: "Our findings underline the importance of accurate elucidation of a family history from young women diagnosed with breast cancer for the prediction of mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. We recommend that all breast cancer surgical notes include a section on family history, which has to be completed. Elucidation of family history will aid identification of women with pathogenic gene mutations who need altered initial management and prospective tumor surveillance of both the breast and the ovaries."  



The Lancet, March 29, 2003