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Cancer Genetics

Link between Breast and Prostate Cancer



My brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 50. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in the same month / year and she was 48. Should I get tested for carrying the BRAC1 or 2 gene? What are my chances of getting breast cancer?


Prostate cancer and breast cancer can cluster together in families who have a change in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. However, since these cancers are relatively common, it is also possible that the cancers in your brother and sister are not related to each other or to an alteration in one of these genes.

There are many factors that determine a woman's risk for developing breast cancer. Some of these are genetic and some are environmental (diet, exercise, hazardous exposures, etc...). Genetic testing is one way to clarify if the cancers in a particular family are related to a known cancer gene. However, genetic testing is not appropriate for all families. For example, only 5-10% of all breast cancers are inherited, i.e. due to a single gene alteration that is being passed from generation to generation.

To determine if genetic testing is appropriate for you and your family, I would recommend that you consider speaking with a genetic counselor in your area. A genetic counselor can provide you with information about your family history, your risk for developing breast cancer or other cancers, and the pros and cons of genetic testing for BRCA1/2. They can help determine if genetic testing is appropriate for your family and help you through the process of testing.

To find a genetic counselor in your area, refer to the section on Cancer Genetics under the `Disease and Conditions` section listed on the Netwellness home page. There are several links at the end of the Cancer Genetics Introduction including the National Cancer Institutes Genetic Counselor Genetic Counselor Service.

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Response by:

Rebecca J Nagy, MS, CGC Rebecca J Nagy, MS, CGC
Formerly, Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University