Posted on March 8th, 2016 by
Among women with the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutations, the age of diagnosis of breast cancer is strongly associated with their risk of developing a second breast cancer in their contralateral (opposite) breast. These results were recently published as a rapid communication in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Individuals who have certain mutations referred to as the breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and/or the breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer within their lifetime. Often, patients with a strong family history of breast cancer are tested for these genetic mutations.
If an individual tests positive for either, or both of the BRCA1/2 mutations, they can decide upon the way in which they would like to prevent the disease from developing and/or undergo frequent screening. Strategies range from more radical measures such as a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts prior to a diagnosis of cancer) to less aggressive measures such as screening at frequent intervals so the cancer can be diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages.
Researchers recently conducted a study to help determine if the age of diagnosis of breast cancer among BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutation carriers was associated with a risk of developing breast cancer in the opposite breast of these patients within their lifetime.
The study included 6,294 patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50 years. The patients were tested for the most prevalent BRCA1/2 mutations, and were followed for 12.5 years. Of these patients, 578 developed contralateral breast cancer.
The researchers concluded that “Age at first breast cancer is a strong risk factor for cumulative [contralateral breast cancer] risk in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. Considering the available evidence, age-specific risk estimates should be included in counseling.”
Patients with a strong family history of breast cancer should speak with their physician to determine if they might benefit from genetic testing. Among individuals with BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutations who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, discussions with healthcare providers should include the age of initial diagnosis to create a plan for optimal screening or prevention measures for a contralateral breast cancer.
Reference: van den Broek A, van’t Veer, L, Hooning M, et al. Impact of age at primary breast cancer on contralateral breast cancer risk in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2016; 23(5): 409-418. Available at: http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/34/5/409.abstract. Accessed February 18, 2016.
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