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Risk of Contralateral Breast Cancer in BRCA Mutation Carriers: Population-Based Study

Posted Apr 16 2010 10:46am
Women who carry either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are at increased risk for breast cancer and younger women with breast cancer are frequently tested for BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations.  Most previous studies, including one I posted a blog about earlier , have examined the risk for developing breast cancer in the opposite breast among women in high risk families.  However, little research has been done to examine this risk in the general population.

A new breast cancer research study assessed this risk.  To do so, the investigators used information from the WECARE study , a population-based study that included about 700 women with contralateral breast cancer and 1,400 women who did not develop contralateral breast cancer.  All of these women were tested for the BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations and risk for contralateral breast cancer was determined regardless of family history.  The results of the investigator's assessment showed that
  • BRCA1 mutation carriers had a 4.5-fold increased risk for developing cancer in the opposite breast, regardless of family history.
  • BRCA2 mutation carriers had a 3.4-fold increased risk for contralateral breast cancer, regardless of family history.
  • Women younger than 55 years of age who carried at least one of the BRCA mutations were at about an 18% increased risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast compared to only 5% risk in non-carriers.
  • Among carriers of the BRCA mutations, the risk for contralateral breast cancer increased with the younger a woman's age was at first diagnosis.
This important new study shows that women carrying either of the BRCA mutations are at a substantial risk for developing cancer in the opposite breast even if they don't have a family history of breast cancer.  This information is important for increasing breast cancer awareness and important for decision making in regards to breast cancer treatment and screenings for women with either of the BRCA mutations.  Knowing what the risk of contralateral breast cancer is in this population of women will help physicians develop appropriate strategies for these women.

Breast cancer awareness is an important first step in our fight against breast cancer.   To increase your own awareness of steps you can take to reduce your own breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at www.fightBCnow.com .
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