World's largest population study on BRCA1/2

The largest population study ever done into the risk of cancer in families that fulfil the criteria for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation testing has confirmed that breast and ovarian cancers are the major concerns for geneticists and doctors counselling families. It has also verified that families eligible for BRCA1/2 mutation testing are at increased risk of pancreatic, prostate and stomach cancers.

One important conclusion of the study was that, in families with at least one woman with breast cancer and another woman with ovarian cancer, most ovarian cancers are not attributable to BRCA1/2 mutations. Other, as yet unknown, non-BRCA1/2 related factors are likely to increase the risk of ovarian cancer in those families.

The study, published Monday 15 November in Annals of Oncology[1], utilised the 2002 update of the Swedish Family-Cancer Database, which contains everyone born in Sweden after 1931 with their biological parents a total of 10.2 million people. Nearly 948,000 families with at least three generations were classified according to the clinical criteria proposed by the German Consortium for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer for testing of BRCA1/2 mutations.

The researchers Dr Justo Lorenzo Bermejo and Professor Kari Hemminki compared the cancer incidence in families eligible for BRCA1/2 mutation testing with the incidence in the general Swedish population. They used literature data to estimate the proportion of familial cancers unrelated to BRCA1/2 mutations.

Dr. Lorenzo Bermejo, postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Molecular Genetic Epidemiology at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, said: "The close to 100% histological verification of cancers in the database, its size and its coverage offered us a unique possibility to perform this analysis. Our objective was to assess the risk of cancer in high-risk breast/ovarian cancer families at a population level. Data about the risk in BRCA1/2 carriers ar

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Medical Oncology

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