Can I Inherit Breast Cancer?

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Question: Can I inherit breast cancer from my mother or other women in my family?

Answer: There's no simple answer to this question. Some abnormal genes are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. In families that have an abnormal gene, it can be passed down from a parent to a child.

Only 10% (1 in 10) of women with breast cancer have inherited an abnormal breast cancer gene. Breast cancer due to an inherited gene abnormality tends to happen at an early age (under 40), in multiple relatives, and in one or both breasts (but usually not at the same time). The abnormal gene is also associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Here are a few other important facts to remember:

  • Just because your mother or another relative had breast cancer DOES NOT mean you will get breast cancer.
  • Most women who get breast cancer DO NOT have breast cancer in the family.
  • There are many risk factors for breast cancer, and having it in the family is only one of them.

If you're worried about getting breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your own risk factors.

Click here to read a detailed discussion of the different risk factors for breast cancer.

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