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Breast cancer in family ‘not predictive’
[Posted: Wed 23/07/2008 by Joanne McCarthy www.irishhealth.com]
A new study should provide some relief to women who are concerned about breast cancer because it ‘runs in their family’. The research from Holland indicates that a family history of the disease does not give a useful indication of the likelihood that a woman will develop it herself at an early age.
An increased risk of breast cancer for the relatives of breast cancer patients has been demonstrated in a number of studies. As a result, many healthy women with a family history of the disease are sent for intensive screening or genetic testing.
The researchers set out to determine whether this increased risk was significant enough to accurately predict breast cancer.
"Due to the low prevalence of early breast cancer in the population, the predictive value of a family history of breast cancer was 13% before the age of 70, 11% before the age of 50, and 1% before the age of 30," said Geertruida H. de Bock of Leiden University Medical Centre.
These numbers, particularly those in the younger age brackets, are lower than most women would probably expect. The researchers explained that applying family history related criteria results in the screening of many women who will not develop breast cancer at an early age.
Given the psychological harm that screening visits can cause, the researchers believe that more stringent criteria should be applied to early screening. They recommend that these results be used to ‘reassure a large number of women regarding their personal breast cancer risk’.
The research could provide relief to younger women who are worried after a relative’s breast cancer diagnosis.
One in 11 Irish women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. There are around 2,300 new cases diagnosed here annually and over 600 women die from the disease each year.
The study is published in the journal BMC Cancer.
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