Family history of breast and ovarian cancers and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in a population-based series of early-onset breast cancer

N Loman, O Johannsson, U Kristoffersson, H Olsson, A Borg
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2001 August 15, 93 (16): 1215-23

BACKGROUND: BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two major susceptibility genes involved in hereditary breast cancer. This study was undertaken to provide reliable population-based estimates of genetic influence and to characterize the nature and prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations in early-onset breast cancer.

METHODS: In a series comprising all women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 41 years in southern Sweden during 1990 through 1995 (n = 262), family history of cancer was evaluated in 95% (n = 250) of the case subjects and germline mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 were analyzed in 89% (n = 234). All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: A total of 97 case subjects had at least one first- or second-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer; 34 (14%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 9.6% to 18%) cases had at least two first- or second-degree relatives, 22 (8.8%; 95%CI = 5.3% to 12%) had one first-degree relative, and 41 (16%; 95% CI = 12% to 21%) had one second-degree relative with either cancer. If two females affected with breast or ovarian cancer who were related through an unaffected male were also defined as first-degree relatives, then a higher number of case subjects, 120 (48%; 95% CI = 42% to 54%), had at least one first-degree or second-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer. Sixteen (6.8%; 95% CI = 4.0% to 11%) BRCA1 mutation carriers and five (2.1%; 95% CI = 0.70% to 4.9%) BRCA2 mutation carriers were identified. Among case subjects with one first- or more than one first- or second-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer, BRCA mutations were more frequent (P<.001) than among the case subjects without this degree of family history. BRCA mutations were also statistically significantly more common among women with bilateral breast cancer than among women with unilateral breast cancer (P =.002). BRCA mutations were more common among younger case subjects than among older ones (P =.0027).

CONCLUSIONS: Almost half (48%) of women in southern Sweden with early-onset breast cancer have some family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and 9.0% of early-onset breast cancer cases are associated with a germline mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Mutation carriers were more prevalent among young women, women with at least one first- or second-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer, and women with bilateral breast cancer.

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