Study provides more accurate estimates of genetic breast, ovarian cancer risk

A large new study provides more accurate estimates of the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer for those genetically predisposed to the disease.

The University of Cambridge study published in JAMA recruited 10,000 cancer-free women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which are linked to developing cancer.

The study followed the women over a period of time, noting who developed cancer and who did not, to better assess the actual cancer risks associated with the gene mutations.

Researchers say the findings should help doctors give better advice and treatment options, and a local genetic counselor agrees.

“The more information we have the better we can understand the world of genetics,” said Becky Pabst, a genetic counselor at Gundersen Health System. “It’s just additional information that can help us treat or manage patients, hopefully in a better way.”

Among more specific age-related findings, the study found the risk of breast cancer before age 80 is 72 percent for those carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene and 69 percent for women with a mutated BRCA2 gene.