March 29, 2015 | by Nicole White
When considering cancer risk, categories like “women’s cancers” and “men’s cancers” may not matter. A complete medical history, especially of first-degree relatives, must be considered when evaluating risk.
A new study drives home that fact. Published in the journal Cancer, the study found a link between a family history of prostate cancer and an increased risk of breast cancer in women. The study, one of the largest efforts to examine the link between these cancers, found that women with a father, brother or son with prostate cancer may have a 14 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women without that family history. Women with a family history of both prostate and breast cancer appear to have a 78 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to the study.
The researchers, from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit, cautioned that their study found a connection, not a cause-and-effect relationship. Nonetheless, it gives food for thought to how women should think comprehensively when assessing individual cancer risk.
“The article raises an interesting point,” said Courtney Vito, M.D., assistant professor of surgical oncology at City of Hope, in an interview with HealthDay.
She pointed out that some of the risk could be attributed to the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, which were not considered in the study. Men with these mutations have a higher risk of prostate cancer, and women with these mutations have higher breast and ovarian cancer risk.
Both cancers are also associated with exposure to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
Also important to keep in perspective: The 14 percent increased risk is a modest increase. Family history of breast cancer remains more important to women in terms of risk assessment.
The study underscores the importance of knowing your complete medical history. Awareness of cancer risk empowers individuals to take proactive measures to protect their health.**
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