One in 8 Australian women will get breast cancer. A complex list of factors determines your personal risk. A new calculator from the National Breast Cancer Centre (NBCC) can measure your risk, compared to women your age.
The calculator at www.nbcc.org.au/risk
indicates which issues are important in your case. Some risk factors can be modified. For example, the NBCC recommends that you drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day. Reducing your weight or doing regular exercise will also lower your risk.
On the other hand, your risk also increases with age, a history of breast cancer in your family and the age of having your first child. These factors can’t be changed.
Do you have ‘hereditary’ cancer?
A ‘family history’ of breast cancer means having one or more blood relatives with breast cancer. This does not necessarily increase your risk as most cases occur randomly and are not inherited.
In ‘hereditary’ cancer, a faulty gene is passed down through either the mother’s or father’s side of the family. This greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in future generations. Less than 5% of breast cancers are hereditary. You could have hereditary cancer if you have:
3 or more close blood relatives on the same side of the family with breast or ovarian cancer, OR 2 or more close relatives on either side of the family with breast or ovarian cancer plus one or more of the following:
· Breast + ovarian cancer in one relative
· Breast cancer < age 40 or in both breasts
· Breast cancer in a male relative
· Jewish ancestry
If you are concerned about your family history, talk to your GP who may refer you to a family cancer clinic.