Inherited Breast Cancers Appear Earlier

BRCA carriers can develop breast cancer years earlier than their ancestors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The genetic mutation that's passed from mother to daughter not only produces a more aggressive form of breast cancer, the disease shows up earlier in the carrier than it did in the previous generation.

An analysis conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has discovered that women who have mutations in the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) may develop breast cancer up to eight years earlier than family members from her mother's generation.

This means that women who carry this gene should begin thorough screenings at younger ages.

"If breast cancer runs in your family, begin screening early."

BRCA mutations increase a woman's risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. Researchers wanted to analyze the age of onset among various generations.

A team, led by MD Anderson oncologist, Jennifer Litton, M.D., looked at the history of BRCA-related cancers in 132 women, 106 of whom had an ancestor who had been diagnosed with either breast or ovarian cancer.

The team found the average age of cancer diagnosis was 48 years in the first generation and 42 years in the second. A more thorough analysis of the data, found the difference was actually even greater - 7.9 years.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines suggest that screening for hereditary breast cancer should begin either at 25 years or 5-10 years earlier than the age of the earliest diagnosis in the family.

Dr. Litton says this research indicates that screenings need to begin at least a decade earlier than the youngest age of a family member's earliest diagnosis.

She adds that it's vitally important for family information to continue to be collected so that patients and their caregivers can have the information they need when making decisions regarding counseling, screening and treatments.

This study was published in the September 12, 2011 issue of CANCER, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 13, 2011
Last Updated:
October 23, 2011