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Dad's Family History of Breast, Ovarian Cancer Matters, Too
Date:10/30/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, October 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women with female relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer are often acutely aware of their own increased risk and may seek genetic counseling.

But they should also pay attention to their father's family history, one genetic counselor warns.

The inherited genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer is mostly caused by a mutation in one or both of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes, said Jeanna McCuaig, a genetic counselor at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. And, she pointed out, "if your mom or your dad has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, you would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it from either one."

That explains why a father's family history is as important to consider as a mother's, she said.

"Anecdotally, I've had patients come in and say, 'I never thought about my dad's side,'" McCuaig said. She decided to do some research into the implications of that statement. "We took two years of patient charts referred to our clinic, referred as new patients, and looked to see how many had relatives [with breast or ovarian cancers] on the mom's side versus the dad," she said.

She found that patients who came to her Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic at the hospital were more than five times more likely to be referred with a maternal family history of breast or ovarian cancer than a paternal history of such cancers.

To get the word out, she wrote a commentary on the subject, published online in The Lancet Oncology.

The lack of awareness that women may inherit a mutated gene from their fathers is also present among many health-care providers, McCuaig suspects. This is problematic, she noted in her study, because they often serve as gatekeepers for referrals to specialized clinics, including those that do genetic testing.

If a woman tests positive for a BRCA1
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