Does Family History Predict the Age at Onset of New Breast Cancers in BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation-positive Families?
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Women who carry BRCA mutations are advised to begin breast cancer screening based on the age-specific risks of breast cancer development. It is not clear to what extent the family history of breast cancer influences age of onset. We evaluated the use of family history to predict the age of breast cancer onset in BRCA mutation carriers. Pedigrees from an Ontario-based registry were reviewed to identify the index case of breast cancer (most recent diagnosis) and other family cases of breast cancer. The youngest age of breast cancer diagnosis and mean age at breast cancer diagnosis in the other family cases were compared to the age of onset in the index case. The 260 BRCA1 and 213 BRCA2 pedigrees were reviewed. In BRCA2 families, the index case was diagnosed on average at 44.4 years when the youngest reported family case was less than or equal to 35 years, compared to 51.9 years when the earliest cases were diagnosed after age 50 (p = 0.04). A modest trend was seen for BRCA1 carriers, but this was not statistically significant. To a small extent, the onset of breast cancer in a BRCA2 mutation carrier can be predicted from her family history of cancer, however, the trend is modest and should not alter clinical recommendations regarding initiation of screening.