Genetic Epidemiology

University of Utah

Breast Cancer

An estimated 182,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year. About 90% of new breast cancers are found by women themselves or by their partners, when cancers are most treatable.

Both women and men are at risk for developing breast cancer, although a man's risk is 100 -fold less. In Utah, approximately 10 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. A woman's chance of developing breast cancer over her lifetime is about one in eight. Individuals with a strong family history of breast cancer are at an even greater risk than the average population. Since early detection will increase an individual's chance of survival, it is very important to perform monthly self-breast examinations, have annual clinical breast and pelvic exams (for women), and an annual mammogram. Mammography cannot find every breast cancer, but is currently the best early detection tool available.

Our researchers, in collaboration with researchers at other universities and at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City, isolated the BRCA1 gene and localized the BRCA2 gene in 1994. In 1995, the BRCA2 gene was isolated. It is believed that 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by a genetic predisposition, which is why knowledge of family history of the disease is important. Studies show that mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes likely account for cancer in a majority of high-risk families (families with multiple cases of first- and second-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, or a father or brother with breast cancer). Often, families with both male and female breast cancers have mutations in BRCA2.

Our research is ongoing. We are examining genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may be important in cancer risk. If your family has at least four people with breast cancer, you may be at risk for carrying BRCA1 or BRCA2. Please Contact a Study Coordinator if you are interested in participating in our study.

To learn more about breast cancer, visit the websites found on our Medically Related Links webpage. 


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