By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
According to a 2015 study in the British Journal of Surgery, women who have been treated for breast cancer, and who have a close family history of the disease, are not at greater risk of recurrence than breast cancer patients who have no such family history.
Researchers at the University of Southampton reported their findings after monitoring 2,850 women (under the age of 41) for 15 years after diagnosis and treatment. About a third of the women had a close relative diagnosed with breast cancer.
The study demonstrated that family history per se is not an independent prognosis for recurrence in young-onset breast cancer after treatment with conventional medicine.
“In general,” the researchers from the University of Southampton said, “younger women have a greater fear of breast cancer recurrence than older women. Furthermore, patients with a strong family history may have a high level of anxiety about recurrence and death from breast cancer after witnessing cancer within their family.”
My Viewpoint: About a quarter of breast cancer cases are believed related to heredity, so it can truly be scary for any woman who then develops breast cancer. This is a large study that can reassure younger women, and further clarifies previous findings of no clear proof of a prognostic effect of family history on recurrence.
What This Means to You: The conclusion of this large study is that there are no significant differences in cancer recurrence rates after treatment among women under 41 with or without the link to a family history. Breast cancer in women up to around 39 is relatively uncommon, compared to older women, but tends to be more aggressive. Still, it is important to point out that 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer. Another 31,837 die each year of heart failure.
Recommendation: Whether there is a family history of breast cancer or not, it is in one’s best interest to get regular screenings, not only for cancer, but for overall health status as well. Above all, follow a healthy lifestyle to minimize your risks of developing chronic illness.
- Eccles BK, et al. Family history and outcome of young patients with breast cancer in the UK (POSH study). Br J Surg. 2015;102(8):924-935.
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