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Gene Mutations Up Risk for Cancer in Opposite Breast
Date:4/6/2010

time risk for the average woman born today.

The chances of developing cancer in the opposite breast were especially high for those diagnosed with their first cancer early. For instance, those with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation diagnosed in their early to middle 30s had a 31 percent likelihood of developing cancer in the other breast in the next 10 years, but those diagnosed with the initial cancer at the same age but without the gene mutations had less than a 7 percent risk for cancer in the opposite breast in the next decade.

"Every woman who gets a first breast cancer is at increased risk for a second breast cancer," Malone explained. "This additional burden of being a mutation carrier further increases your risk of opposite breast cancer by about four times more."

Risk was higher with BRCA1 than with BRCA2, the study found.

And combining women of all ages, BRCA1 or BRCA2 carriers had an 18 percent risk for an opposite breast cancer at the 10-year follow-up, compared with a 4.9 percent risk for non-carriers.

Malone said that women diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages should consider the possibility that they are mutation carriers and should talk with their physicians about possible genetic testing.

If they find out they are positive, they should then discuss a schedule of stepped-up screening, she said.

Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, agrees with that suggestion.

"These results highlight consideration of genetic testing in young women diagnosed with breast cancer to better understand their future risk of cancer in the opposite breast and underscore the importance of appropriate prevention, treatment and regular screening to reduce risk."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations<
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