Is Breast Cancer Genetic?

Is breast cancer genetic? The answer is yes. Modern medicine believes that at least 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary—meaning it is passed on from parent to child. When you have an abnormality in the DNA, it is transferred to certain cells. But what are the genes responsible for breast cancer? How to assess your risk of getting breast cancer and how to respond correctly if you are concerned?

Why Is Breast Cancer Genetic?

Genes for breast cancer can be passed on from parent to child. It happens because there are codes or “instructions” inside the cells that when they divide continue to carry the same set of bad instructions. When this DNA with the bad set of instructions is passed along, it will be inherited. This is true of many diseases and disorders and not just cancers.

If there is cause for concern because you have a parent with breast cancer then you should take preventive measures such as mammograms and perform self-tests more often at a younger age.

What Are the Genes for Breast Cancer?

Many factors can cause breast cancer, such as environment, lifestyle, hormonal imbalance and our genetic makeup.

The genes that are deemed to cause breast cancer include BRCA1, BRCA2 and TP53 gene mutation.

The statistic is that 1 in every 20 women may have the faulty gene which puts them at risk for developing breast cancer. However, it doesn’t mean that just because you have the gene you will develop the breast cancer—it only means that it is more possible.

If both parents carry the faulty gene then you have a 50% chance of a genetic pass through.

How to Assess Your Risk for Breast Cancer?

There are some factors that you have to consider to make a proper assessment of your risk. Listed below are situations when you are at greater risk:

  • A lot of blood relatives with breast cancer
  • Close blood relatives with breast cancer
  • Relatives under 40 with breast cancer
  • Relative with breast cancer in both breasts
  • Male relative with breast cancer
  • Combination of ovarian and breast cancer in family
  • Ethnic backgrounds like Ashkenazi Jew and other ethnicity with prominent histories
  • Adrenal or other cancers in family

What to Do if You Are Concerned about Getting Breast Cancer

If you fall in any of the above categories—you will want to consult your physician. Your family doctor will know about your history and your primary as well as secondary family. Primary is your immediate family members like your parents and siblings; secondary is your grandparents, aunts and uncles and first cousins which are your parent’s siblings’ children.

On the basis of your family history, your health care provider will assess your risk as near-normal, moderate, or high. You are then advised to see a specialist for further assessment and counseling if your risk is moderate or high.

Watch a video about genetics and breast cancer:

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