Risk of Breast Cancer With Family History

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Last Modified: December 13, 2011

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How much more likely is a person with a family history of breast cancer to get it than the rest of the population?


Gary Freedman, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn , responds:

In general, a woman in the United States has an approximate 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 80.

A family history in a first degree (mom, sister) relative may be associated with a mild increase in risk, say 2 in 9.

A family history associated with a known genetic marker for breast cancer can be associated with very high rates of breast cancer. Usually, a woman with a family history can be evaluated by a genetic testing / risk assessment clinic at a local cancer center to determine if she should have genetic testing.

There is a great website available through the National Cancer Institute where a woman over age 35 can answer a 8-10 simple questions and get a statistic on her risk of cancer in the next 5 years and over her lifetime. The questions are about age, family history, prior biopsies, etc. Search on the web for "Gail Model" and the page at the National Cancer Institute website should come up.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat. Series, View the Life After Breast Cancer transcript.

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