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New study gives clearer picture of cancer risks associated with BRCA gene mutations

23 June 2017

DNA BRCA gene murtations

A new study has produced results that give a clearer idea of when women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations are most likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer.

The Australian study, led at the University of Melbourne and including another 18 countries across the world, followed nearly 10,000 women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations for up to 20 years.

The study found that by the age of 80, BRCA1 gene mutation carriers had on average a 72% chance of developing breast cancer and 44% chance of getting ovarian cancer.  For BRCA2 mutation carriers the risk is 69% for breast cancer and 17% for ovarian cancer by the age of 80.

The study also showed that cancer risk increases rapidly at a younger age, peaking in the 30s for BRCA1 mutations carriers, and 40s for BRCA2 mutation carriers. Risk then remains high until a woman reaches her 80s, and not her 60s as previously thought.

It was found that a woman’s risk is higher where there are more cases of breast and ovarian cancer in her family history, compared to those women with few cases.

This is interesting new information that can help women identify when they are going to be most at risk, and allow them to make more informed decisions about screening and when to have risk reducing surgery

This is particularly important when thinking about things such as when to start a family.  It also shows the importance of BRCA gene mutation carriers being aware of their family history of breast and ovarian cancer so they know if they are more at risk.

To find out more about BRCA gene mutations, risk-reducing surgery and hereditary ovarian cancer, visit our BRCA hub.