Genetic Breast Cancer Risk
Learn How Heredity Impacts This Disease With Facts from Christine Fisher MD in Austin
Many variables contribute to a person's breast cancer risk factor, including weight, diet, physical activity, ingestion of alcohol and tobacco, and even taking birth control. While all of these elements are related to lifestyle choices that can be mitigated in one way or another, there is a variable that cannot be changed: heredity. Genetic breast cancer risk is higher for people who have an immediate blood relative—a parent, child, or sibling—who has a history of cancer in general, and breast cancer specifically. Race can also be a factor.
At Christine Fisher MD in Austin, the team works to educate patients on breast health, including explaining cancer risk factors. Anywhere from an estimated five to 10 percent of all breast cancers are thought to be inherited, involving mutated genes passed down from a parent. This is different from cancers that develop due to other factors, such as environmental toxins or aging cells.
Genetic Breast Cancer Risk Details
Many instances of genetic breast cancer are found to be linked to two mutations in what are known as "breast cancer gene 1" and "breast cancer gene 2." When these genes are functioning properly, they maintain cellular health and regulate growth in the breasts, ovaries, and elsewhere, but mutations in these genes can increase a person's risk of developing breast cancer. Developing the disease is not a given in these cases, however women with one or both of these mutations have an up to 80 percent chance of lifetime breast cancer diagnosis—as well as increased risk of developing other cancers. Men with a mutation in breast cancer gene 2 also have an increased risk of developing the disease.
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Typically, women who have a breast cancer gene mutation and who are ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer will also find incidences of breast cancer in their family history.
Some genetic breast cancer risk factors to consider include:
- one or more immediate family members who were diagnosed with breast cancer younger than 50
- a family history includes both breast and ovarian cancer, or other cancers
- an abnormal breast cancer gene being identified in your family line
- having Eastern European—specifically Ashkenazi Jewish—heritage
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While any of these traits can increase the risk of inherited mutated genes, remember that it is just that: risk. You may have any—or even all—of these risk factors and never develop breast cancer. Or you may have none of them and still develop a nonhereditary form of breast cancer.
No matter the cause of breast cancer, there are options for breast reconstruction if treatment surgically takes some or all of one or both breasts. A consultation with Christine Fisher MD allows you the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of the process, and Dr. Fisher has also made a wealth of FAQs available online.