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Breast cancer and ovarian cancer genetics.

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  • 1University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. richardedlichmd@gmail.com

Abstract

Breast and ovarian cancers are the second and fifth leading causes of cancer death, respectively, among women in the United States. Individuals with breast cancer have a 20--30% chance of having at least one relative with the disease. However, only 5--10% of the cases are a direct result of germline mutations in highly penetrable genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) as well as genes TP53 and PTEN. Since 1996, genetic testing for these mutations has been clinically available. A strategy for the management of women at increased familial risk of breast and ovarian cancers is described, which includes genetic assessment, chemoprevention, radiologic screening, and clinical and self-examination. Genetic testing should occur within a cancer genetic clinic after genetic counseling. A blood sample allows determination of the presence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, the TP53 gene, the PTEN gene, and the ATM gene. Tumor examination has identified a growth factor receptor gene, human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER-2). With regard to diet and lifestyle, women at increased risk of breast cancer could be advised to reduce dietary fat, avoid obesity, decrease alcohol consumption, and take regular exercise. Although chemoprotection is a valuable consideration, it is important to emphasize that the use of Tamoxifen in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers is not established, nor is the optimum duration of benefit. An overview of the main outcomes of the current published studies confirms a 38% decrease in breast cancer incidence with Tamoxifen but recommends its use be restricted to women at high risk of breast cancer and low risk for potential side effects. The role of bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy or prophylactic mastectomy has been controversial for several reasons, including the psychosocial significance of the breast in Western cultures, the wide acceptance of breast conservation in surgery for early breast cancer, and the previous lack of data on its efficacy. The surgical procedure should aim to remove substantially all at-risk breast tissue. However, there is a balance between reduction of cancer risk and cosmetic outcome. Bilateral prophylactic oophorectomy can significantly decrease ovarian cancer risk in women who carry BCRA1 mutations. Oophorectomy lowers the risk of breast cancer, even in women who have previously used hormone replacement therapy. There are no published randomized controlled trials examining the effectiveness of mammographic screening in women under 50 years of age with a family history of breast cancer. However, the published studies do suggest that mammographic screening of a high-risk group of women under 50 years of age may detect cancer at a rate equivalent to that seen in women 10 years older with normal risk. Other initial studies also support MRI as having a greater sensitivity than mammography in high-risk women. Breast clinical and self-examination is often advocated, but its effectiveness is unproved, and only one randomized study has been undertaken in women at risk. On the basis of this study as well as one nonrandomized study, it can be concluded that clinical examination as well as mammography are essential in detecting breast cancer. under 50 years of age with a family history of breast cancer. However, the published studies do suggest that mammographic screening of a high-risk group of women under 50 years of age may detect cancer at a rate equivalent to that seen in women 10 years older with normal risk. Other initial studies also support MRI as having a greater sensitivity than mammography in high-risk women. Breast clinical and self-examination is often advocated, but its effectiveness is unproved, and only one randomized study has been undertaken in women at risk. On the basis of this study as well as one nonrandomized study, it can be concluded that clinical examination as well as mammography are essential in detecting breast cancer.

PMID:
16218901
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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