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If Relatives Have Abnormal Breast Cancer Gene, Women Who Test Negative Have Higher Risk

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The results of a new study are particularly important for women with a family member who has an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Even though the women in the study tested negative for an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, their breast cancer risk was about 6%, which is higher than women who have no family members with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (their risk is about 2%).

Still, the breast cancer risk in women with a family member with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation (and who haven't inherited the mutation themselves) is low compared to women who have inherited a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have up to a 72% risk of developing breast cancer by age 80.

Earlier research has shown that genetic testing can miss some abnormalities. If you have a family member with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene or have a strong family history of breast cancer and you don't have an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your risk.

We eagerly await a time very soon when testing for hereditary breast cancer is even more accurate, reliable, and informative. For now, it is important to discuss any family history of breast or other cancers with your doctors. Together you can decide what you and your family can do to protect yourselves against this disease.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Jan. 22, 2019, with updated information on cancer risks associated with BRCA mutations.

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