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Family history of prostate cancer linked to greater breast cancer risk

Family history of prostate cancer increases breast cancer risk

Women who have a family history of prostate cancer are at greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study.


Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 78,000 women who were recruited to the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study between 1993 and 1998. The women were cancer-free and over the age of 50, but by 2009, roughly 3,500 women had developed breast cancer.

Women who had a first-degree relative -- a father, brother or son -- with prostate cancer were 14 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer after the age of 50. If both prostate and breast cancer ran in their families, the women were 78 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. A family history of both breast and prostate cancer put African-American women at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than white women.

The median age at the time of diagnosis was 69.

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"These findings are important in that they can be used to support an approach by clinicians to collect a complete family history of all cancers - particularly among first-degree relatives - in order to assess patient risk for developing cancer," said Beebe-Dimmer.

"Families with clustering of different tumors may be particularly important to study in order to discover new genetic mutations to explain this clustering."

The findings were published in the journal Cancer on March 9.

Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2015, while an estimated 40,290 will die from the disease.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, and about 1 in 7 men will develop the disease during his lifetime. About 220,800 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015, with an estimated 27,540 deaths.