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Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2008;9:321-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.9.081307.164339.

Genetic predisposition to breast cancer: past, present, and future.

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  • 1Section of Cancer Genetics, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, SM2 5NG, United Kingdom.


In recent years, our understanding of genetic predisposition to breast cancer has advanced significantly. Three classes of predisposition factors, categorized by their associated risks of breast cancer, are currently known. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are high-penetrance breast cancer predisposition genes identified by genome-wide linkage analysis and positional cloning. Mutational screening of genes functionally related to BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 has revealed four genes, CHEK2, ATM, BRIP1, and PALB2; mutations in these genes are rare and confer an intermediate risk of breast cancer. Association studies have further identified eight common variants associated with low-penetrance breast cancer predisposition. Despite these discoveries, most of the familial risk of breast cancer remains unexplained. In this review, we describe the known genetic predisposition factors, expound on the methods by which they were identified, and consider how further technological and intellectual advances may assist in identifying the remaining genetic factors underlying breast cancer susceptibility.

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