University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twenty Years Later: How Breast Cancer Risk Genes are Changing Patient Care

BRCA1 and BRCA2, the genes implicated in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, have become common parlance, especially since Angela Jolie’s May 2013 disclosure of her genetic mutation and subsequent mastectomy. This has not always been the case - just twenty years ago, these genes were being discovered.

In a “Perspective” article featured in Science Magazine, Dr. Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, Director of Genetics and a funded investigator at the Basser Research Center for BRCA, explains how far we have come in respect to genetic assessment of risk for breast cancer.

“A woman’s risk of breast cancer is still very much tied to family history, but it’s not just about their mother or grandmother; it’s about their father and his family history, too, and the population groups an individual’s family belongs to,” said Dr. Nathanson.

"Twenty years of research has provided a lot more information about these risk factors, which helps us to more effectively counsel patients about their own cancer risk and possible preventative strategies.”

Read about the past, present and furture of BRCA research in a Penn Medicine Press Release covering Dr. Nathanson’s article.

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