Detection of familial breast cancer risk

Prins , Judith

Radboudumc hereditary cancer researchers advocate adding to the population-based breast cancer screening a questionnaire that could detect women at familial breast cancer risk. The results of their study were published on 20 April in the European Journal of Cancer.

In the Netherlands, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. For women at increased hereditary breast cancer risk due to mutation in the BRCA1/2 genes, this risk can rise to 80%. In addition, these women have an up to 60% risk of developing ovarian cancer. It is therefore important to identify women who carry such a BRCA mutation. A first step is to identify families where breast cancer occurs more often. The population-based breast cancer screening program uses mammography to identify breast cancer in women aged 50 to 75 years. The new questionnaire aims to identify women in this group at familial breast cancer risk.
Professor of Hereditary Cancer Nicoline Hoogerbrugge, professor of Medical Psychology Judith Prins (photo left), and PhD candidate and physician Arjen van Erkelens asked 287 women participating in population-based breast cancer screening to complete an online questionnaire asking about the occurrence of breast and ovarian cancer in their family, to identify familial breast cancer risk. Four percent of participating women were found to have a highly increased familial breast cancer risk that was previously unknown. Because filling in the questionnaire might have a psychological impact, the researchers also looked at the anxiety and distress levels of the participating women. They did not appear to be raised immediately after completion of the questionnaire and two weeks later. Professor Hoogerbrugge and her colleagues hope that the questionnaire will be included in population-based breast cancer screening program. Currently they are in consultation with the Ministry of Health. Professor Hoogerbrugge: “Using this questionnaire in population-based breast cancer screening, we could identify over 150 new BRCA families per year.”


Arjen van Erkelens and Nicoline Hoogerbrugge

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