Breast cancer survivors are often concerned about their family members’ risk of breast cancer.
Most breast cancers are not related to genes or family history.
However, if you are a survivor, your family members, especially sisters, daughters and mothers may have an increased risk of getting breast cancer.
This increased risk may be due to genetic factors (known and unknown), shared lifestyle factors or other family traits.
In general, the younger you were when you were diagnosed, the more likely it is another family member will get breast cancer [118,133].
Risk tends to be highest in families where two or more immediate family members (mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son) have had breast or ovarian cancer [118,133-134]. In these families, the history of breast cancer is often due to a genetic factor.
If you have concerns about your family’s risk of breast cancer, talk with your health care provider. He/she can help you understand your risk and can refer you to a genetic counselor.
The Office of the Surgeon General created an online tool called “My Family Health Portrait” that you can use to create a chart of your family’s health history. This chart may be useful when talking with your provider about your family history of breast cancer and other health conditions.
Learn more about family history and breast cancer risk.
Learn about genetic testing.
Sometimes a strong history of breast cancer in a family is due to an inherited gene mutation that increases risk.
Survivors with a strong family history of breast cancer may worry about having a gene mutation that increases risk and passing it on to their children. (A gene mutation can be passed on to sons as well as daughters.)
Survivors with a strong family history and their family members may consider getting tested for inherited gene mutations.
However, testing raises many issues you and your family should consider carefully with the help of a genetic counselor.
In most cases, testing is first done on the person with breast cancer. If no mutation is found, the cancer was probably not due to an inherited gene mutation and there is no need to test other family members.
If a mutation is found, other family members can be tested for the specific mutation. If all family members with breast cancer are deceased, a genetic counselor can help you decide whether it would be useful to have genetic testing.
Learn more about genetic testing.
Learn more about inherited gene mutations.
If you have concerns about breast cancer risk, share these concerns with your family.
Family members should discuss their breast cancer risk with their health care providers.
For those who are at higher risk of breast cancer, the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene may be options for lowering risk.
Learn more about talking with your provider about breast cancer risk.
Learn about online tools that may help you talk with your provider about your breast cancer risk.
Learn more about risk-lowering drugs.
Learn more about options for people at higher risk of breast cancer.
Women with a family history of breast cancer should talk with their health care providers about when they should begin screening for breast cancer.
While screening does not lower the chance of getting breast cancer, it increases the chance of finding it early, when the chances for survival are highest.
Learn more about breast cancer screening for women at higher risk.
Although breast cancer in men is rare, male family members of breast cancer survivors have an increased risk.
The men in your family should discuss their breast cancer risk with their health care providers.
Learn more about breast cancer in men.
Learn more about inherited gene mutations and cancer risk.
Breast cancer screening is only recommended for some men at higher risk due to an inherited gene mutation or a strong family history.
For these men, screening may increase the chances that breast cancer is found early, when the chances for survival are highest.
Learn more about breast cancer screening for men at higher risk.
Healthy lifestyle choices may help lower your risk of different types of cancer and other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Although not all the behaviors listed below lower the risk of breast cancer, they are good for overall health.**
Everyone should aim to:
Note: Being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and to a lesser degree, eating fruits and vegetables may help lower your risk of breast cancer. Other factors are good for your overall health and may help lower the risk of other types of cancer.
Adapted from the American Cancer Society’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines [127,135].
Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk.
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.
** Being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and to a lesser degree, eating fruits and vegetables may help lower your risk of breast cancer. Other factors are good for your overall health and may help lower the risk of other types of cancer.
Facts For Life: Healthy Living
Breast Cancer 101 - Living a Healthy Lifestyle
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