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What is Hereditary Breast Cancer

Most types of cancer in general and breast and ovarian cancers in particular are sporadic, meaning that they are NOT transmitted from one generation to the next. Despite this fact, there are several families with many members who are diagnosed with certain cancer types which place them in an increased risk of bearing a hereditary (genetic) syndrome. An example of such a syndrome is Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer-HBOC. Approximately 5% to 10% of all cancers are due to hereditary (genetic) damages on the genetic material (DNA) which is inherited by either parent. These damages are called hereditary mutations. The majority of the Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome are due to the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and a smaller percentage of cases are due to alterations of the PALB2 and CHECK2 genes. The chances of transferring a mutation from either parent to offspring are 50%. 
Mutations on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are correlated to an increased predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer. 
The risk of such mutation carriers to develop:
  • breast cancer during their lifetime is 60-80%
  • ovarian cancer during their lifetime is 20-40%.
The average age of developing breast cancer among mutation carriers is 42, twenty years earlier than the average of the general population in the USA and Europe. These are usually families with 2 or more cases of breast and/or ovarian cancer, usually before the age of 50.

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