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New cancer research reveals: Your breast cancer risk is higher if your dad, brother or son has prostate cancer!

by , 10 March 2015

According to a new study, women with close male relatives suffering from prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. “This is not the first study to examine this relationship, but it is one of the larger to date, if not the largest study,” according to lead author Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Dr Beebe-Dimmer pointed out that cancer is a disease of the DNA. Therefore a family clustering indicates that breast and prostate cancers may have certain types of genes in common. The analysis conducted by Beebe-Dimmer and her colleagues used data for more than 78,000 women in the Women’s Health Initiative, aged over 50 who were cancer-free when the study initially began in 1993. At the beginning of the study, these women  were subjected to comprehensive physical exams and gave detailed personal and family medical histories. 

Most women remained in the study for more than ten years and by 2009 there had been 3,506 new breast cancer cases in the group.
The study revealed that more than 11,000 women had a first-degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer which was more common for those who were eventually diagnosed themselves. 20% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer had first-degree relatives with the disease, compared to nearly 15% percent of those who didn’t develop breast cancer.

This is significant.
After all, the study revealed that over 11% of the women who developed breast cancer reported a first-degree relative with prostate cancer disease.. Having a father, brother or son with prostate cancer increased the risk of breast cancer by about 14%. In the case of the women with a family history of both breast ANDprostate cancer, researchers discovered that there was an 80% chance they’d develop breast cancer.

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“We know that the major breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are also linked to prostate cancer,” said Beebe-Dimmer . Which may also explain some of the clustering, according to her declarations. 

According to Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, researchers have been reporting on familial links between breast and prostate cancer for 40 years. Adding that “it is good to see the link confirmed”.

“Both of these cancers are relatively common, so that it is possible when cancers are diagnosed in multiple family members it may be due to chance,” she said. “It may also be an exposure to something in the environment. The decision to increase breast cancer screening will depend on how many male relatives have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and at what age with more diagnoses at young ages being particularly telling."

Bottom line: “Knowledge of breast cancer family history is still extremely important,” reminds Beebe-Dimmer. And that’s why she recommends BRCA1 or 2 genetic testing for women with a family history of prostate cancer but no history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Source: Reuters Health

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