Does genetics cause breast cancer? People ask me this question quite a lot, The truth is only 5 – 10% of breast cancer cases are due to an inherited predisposition. When people hear that, they are quite surprised. Surely if there is a strong family history of breast cancer such as mother or grandmother having had breast cancer, then the likelihood of getting breast cancer is high? Well, not necessarily. There are so many other factors that come into play. Are there other members of the family affected, what were the ages when they were diagnosed, are there any other cancers such as ovarian or prostate, what type of breast cancer did they have?
So, as you can see, it’s complicated and complex. That was why I asked Dr Munaza Ahmed, who is as a consultant clinical geneticist, to come onto the podcast. Her work involves trying to figure out whether someone may benefit from getting a genetic test to see whether they may carry a mutation in either of the high-risk genes. This assessment depends on all the various factors I’ve mentioned above.
Some of the questions that were asked include:
- What is a gene?
- We talk a lot about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but roles do they play?
- What would make an individual a high risk of developing breast cancer that would make them eligible for testing?
- If an individual carries the BRCA 1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, what are the implications on the rest of the family members?
- Should men get tested too?
- What are the other high-risk genes that can be tested?
- What does the future of gene testing hold?
If you want to learn more about genetics and breast cancer, then I highly recommend listening to this episode. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation I certainly took away some pretty important take-away messages.
We also talk about what strategies are available if you do test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA1 gene mutation. The most effective way to minimise the risk of developing breast cancer in this situation would be to have a risk-reducing bilateral mastectomy, with or without reconstruction. If you want to learn more about the options of reconstruction, you may want to check out this podcast episode where I talk in more depth about the various available options.
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DISCLAIMER: The content of this podcast and website is not a substitute for seeking medical advice from a healthcare professional. Please do not delay in seeing a doctor for a breast problem, because of what you have read on this website or heard on this podcast.