Scientists have found that genetic mutations could put some women at risk for breast cancer if it runs in their family, ABC News reports. Women with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are five times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute says. This means that 60 percent of women with a BRCA mutation will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
However, less than 1 percent of all women actually have a BRCA mutation, making it less likely that women will want to undergo the expensive genetic testing process.
The NCI recommends the following women to be genetically tested if they are not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent:
- Two first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, with one of them before age 51. First-degree relatives include your mother or sister;
- Three or more first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer. Second-degree relatives include your grandmother or aunt;
- A combination of first- and second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer;
- A first-degree relative diagnosed with cancer in both breasts;
- A combination of first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer;
- A first- or second-degree relative diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer;
- A male relative diagnosed with breast cancer.
A statement on the NCI website makes it clear that having the mutation is not an automatic sign that breast cancer will occur:
“Not every woman in such families carries a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, and not every cancer in such families is linked to a harmful mutation in one of these genes. Furthermore, not every woman who has a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation will develop breast and/or ovarian cancer.”