Breast Cancer Runs in My Family

Question: My mother had breast cancer, will I have it too?

If your mom, sister or daughter has breast cancer, your risk is about twice as high as someone who doesn’t have an immediate relative with breast cancer with the disease. Less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease. That means 85% of women who have breast cancer have no family history.

Having breast cancer in your family can be frightening. While you do have an increased risk, a family history doesn’t mean you’re destined to have breast cancer. If you have breast cancer in your family, it’s important to know the facts:

  • About 5-10% of breast cancers are caused by abnormal genes passed from parents to their children.
  • If you have more than one immediate relative with a history of breast cancer, your risk is about three to four times higher.
  • The younger (50 or younger) your mom, sister or daughter was when diagnosed with breast cancer, the higher your risk.
  • While breast cancer is rare in men, if your dad, brother or uncle has or had breast cancer, you could be at an increased risk.
  • If your dad or brother has or had prostate cancer, you could have an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
  • If you have a strong family history of premenopausal breast cancer, talk to your doctor about starting yearly mammograms at an age 10 years younger than when your mom or sister was diagnosed. For example, if your mom was diagnosed at age 45, your first mammogram should be at 35.