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Annu Rev Med. 1998;49:425-36.

Hereditary breast cancer.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Charlestown, USA.

Erratum in

  • Annu Rev Med 1999;50:582.


Genetic predisposition is responsible for 5-10% of all breast cancer, and a much larger percent of early-onset disease. Within the past few years, a number of genes associated with a high risk of breast cancer have been identified, including BRCA1, BRCA2, p53, and the Cowden disease gene PTEN/MMAC1. These genes appear to function as tumor suppressors, and although their mutation frequency in the general population is low, certain populations have a carrier frequency of up to 1% for particular BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The isolation of these genes is likely to provide important insight into the pathogenesis of human cancer. The clinical application of these molecular discoveries raises controversial issues regarding presymptomatic testing for patients suspected of harboring cancer predisposing mutations.

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