Press Release: Breast and Ovarian Cancers Linked By Heredity: Women Need To Know Their Risks

Women Need To Know Their Risks

Chicago, IL, Sept. 12, 2006—During September, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) urges women to learn more about familial breast-ovarian cancer syndrome.

In the United States, approximately 10 percent of women will develop breast cancer and about two percent of women will develop ovarian cancer sometime in their lifetime. In contrast, women with familial breast-ovarian cancer syndrome have up to a 90 percent lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Familial breast-ovarian cancer syndrome is a common inherited condition that causes 10 percent of all ovarian cancers and 5-10 percent of all breast cancers. Research confirms that there is a link between breast and ovarian cancer. Any woman who has had one of these cancers is at a higher risk for developing the other.

“While these statistics sound alarming,” said Dr. Mary Gemignani, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and GCF member, “there are steps every woman can take to manage this increased risk. First, it is extremely important to know your family history of these cancers. Second, if it is determined that a woman is at increased risk after undergoing genetic testing, she should discuss the various options with her health care provider.”

Approximately 1 out of every 500 individuals in the general population are members of a family that inherit and pass on a mutation or change in the Breast Cancer 1 (BRCA1) or the Breast Cancer 2 (BRCA2) gene, the cause of familial breast-ovarian cancer syndrome. Women with changes in the BRCA1 gene have an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 20 percent to 40 percent chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Changes in the BRCA2 gene result in the same sharply higher risk of developing breast cancer as the BRCA1 gene, but fewer women, 10 percent to 20 percent, will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Women who are found to have these changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes should consider more intense clinical monitoring, including mammograms, pelvic ultrasounds and a blood test called a CA 125 test. Women also should consider other protective measures including medication, life-style changes and preventive surgery.

“It is our hope that during September, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, and October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women will have an opportunity to learn more about the inherited link between breast and ovarian cancer, and take appropriate measures,” said Karl C. Podratz., MD, PhD, chairman of the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation provides information on the leading types of cancer including gynecologic cancers—ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and cervical cancer. Visit to read about cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer survivor stories and gather additional information on cancer statistics, graphs and charts, as well as clinical trials for cancer and new cancer treating drugs.


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