Breast Cancer and Genetics: What You Should Know

In the past year, celebrities including Angelina Jolie have shined a spotlight on the gene mutations linked to breast cancer by sharing their own experiences. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may be wondering: “What’s my risk?”

While most cases of breast cancer are unrelated to genetics, women with BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations do have an elevated risk. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 55 to 65 percent of women with a BRCA 1 gene mutation and 45 percent of women with a BRCA 2 gene mutation will develop breast cancer.

Understanding BRCA Gene Mutations

BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations are not the only gene mutations that contribute to breast cancer, but according to GeneReviews, they are the mutations associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, factors that increase your risk of having breast cancer gene mutations include:

  • Multiple family members with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • Family members who were diagnosed with breast cancer younger than age 45
  • A male family member with breast cancer
  • A diagnosis of breast cancer younger than age 50
  • A diagnosis or family history of breast cancer in both breasts

Genetic testing can confirm whether or not you carry a BRCA gene mutation and help you understand if preventive measures, such as a prophylactic mastectomy, may be appropriate. However, testing is not recommended for everyone.

To find out if you are at risk for breast cancer or to schedule a mammogram, visit

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