There is much that we don’t understand about the causes of cancer and in a bid to make sense out of it all, one of the oft asked questions is: is breast cancer hereditary? How important is a woman’s genetic makeup in determining her cancer risk?
Suppose you have had a close female relative having suffered breast cancer, you would naturally wonder if you were more at risk of developing the disease yourself; is breast cancer hereditary.
The fact is that a vast majority of breast cancers seem to be random occurrences and clinicians may have a hard time pinpointing any particular cause of the disease in a given case.
Most women don’t seem to have a family history of breast cancer; however there is a genetic predisposition to cancer in some families.
When other factors such as a woman’s lifestyle, exposure to certain toxins, environmental pollutants, and hormonal factors are combined with this genetic predisposition, a woman is at much higher risk of developing breast cancer herself.
The Genes known to increase breast cancer risk
Women who are seen to carry certain faulty genes are at increased risk of developing breast cancer themselves.
Certain genes, like the BRCA1 gene, BRCA2 gene, and the TP53 genes are known to increase risk of developing cancer so yes in this sense the answer to the question is breast cancer hereditary would be yes.
In particular the risk of breast cancer is thought to increase if a close female relative has had early breast cancer. A recent study found that close relatives of women younger than 35 years of age, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, are at high risk not only of developing breast cancer, but also cancers of the lung and brain.
So the type of cancer that is seen as having a genetic component is also related to age: this type of cancer seems to strike women at an earlier age.
An estimated 1 in 20 women are thought to carry the faulty gene which may predispose them to cancer, and there is a 50% chance that they will pass of their faulty gene to a child as well.
Is breast cancer hereditary in your case?
To find out if you are more at risk of the disease, you have to look at how closely related you are to any cancer sufferer in your family. The closer the blood relation, the higher is the risk. Also the larger the number of blood relatives who have had cancer, the higher is an individual’s own risk.
Certain ethnic groups have a higher chance of carrying the gene mutation that increases breast cancer risk, so if you belong to a certain ethnic group you are more at risk.
Also look at whether your relatives had breast cancer in both breasts, and look at their age when they were diagnosed with their disease to gauge is breast cancer hereditary in your case. If you are worried about having a genetic predisposition to cancer, have your risk assessed by a physician and follow recommendations on mammograms and clinical exams as directed.