So a woman who has a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer on her father's side (her dad's mother or sisters) has the same risk of having an abnormal breast cancer gene as a woman with a strong family history on her mother's side.
Still, the study reviewed here suggests that women are much more likely to be referred for genetic counseling if the family history of breast or ovarian cancer is on their mother's side rather than their father's.
This could mean that doctors aren't recognizing that paternal (father's) family history of breast and ovarian cancer is equally important as maternal (mother's) family history when considering abnormal breast cancer gene risk. It's also possible that women themselves don't consider paternal family history equal to maternal family history when talking about risk and family history with their doctors.
Having an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene has health implications for both men and women.
Women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene:
- have up to an 85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer
- have a much higher-than-average lifetime risk of ovarian cancer; estimates range from 15% to 60%
- men with an abnormal BRCA1 gene had a 1.2% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70
- men with an abnormal BRCA2 gene had a 6.8% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70
Both women AND men with an abnormal breast cancer gene have a 50% risk of passing the abnormal gene on to their children.
All women should tell their doctors about the health histories of their mother's AND their father's families, especially any history of breast and ovarian cancer. Having a family history of breast or ovarian cancer in first-degree relatives on either side may be an indicator of an abnormal breast cancer gene and higher-than-average risk for breast or ovarian cancer. If your mother or father's family has a strong family history, you may want to consider BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing. Knowing the results can help you develop the best cancer screening and risk-reduction strategies, as well as inform other family members about their risk of an abnormal breast cancer gene.