While most cases of breast cancer are not inherited, about five to 15 in every 100 women with breast cancer have a family history which is likely to have increased their risk of developing the disease.
Wednesday 25 November 2015      Health information blog
New family history resource now available from Breast Cancer Now

At least one in 10 men with breast cancer also have a family history of the disease.

We’ve created a new online guide to family history which gives comprehensive information about services for people with a family history of breast cancer, as well as breast screening, genetic testing and preventative options.

The Jolie Effect

In 2013, Angelina Jolie made the headlines when she told her story and her decision to have genetic testing for the BRCA1 gene, and subsequent risk reducing mastectomy. This brought the issues faced by women with a family history of breast cancer very much into the public eye and prompted many women to think about their own risk.

Family history graphic Breast Cancer Now

New research, by Professor Gareth Evans from the University of Manchester, has confirmed that the so-called ‘Angelina Jolie effect’ - which has seen an increase in both referrals for gene-testing, as well as the rate of risk-reducing mastectomies - has been long lasting.

Even now, women attending genetic testing clinics, unprompted, mention the effects of Angelina Jolie on their attendance.

Professor Evans’ article shows the impact that raising awareness of an issue like breast cancer risk and family history can have - demonstrating how essential it is that people are aware that a family history of cancer can have implications for their own risk of developing the disease.

Without Angelina Jolie’s openness in talking about her BRCA1 mutation and decision to have a risk-reducing mastectomy, many women may not have approached health services and so would never have had their breast cancer risk and risk-reducing options explained.

Exploring your family history

We’ve developed a new family history resource with the aim of helping people understand what a family history is and the possible implications for them and their family depending on their breast cancer risk.

Within the resource, you can tailor the information depending on where you live and your level of risk so you can easily get the answers most relevant to you.

You can also hear about the experiences of other women at increased risk of breast cancer and from experts on the services you should expect.

Emily’s story

“My mum died of breast cancer when she was in her 50s and we didn’t know much about the family history at that point. After she died, we were speaking to one of my mum’s cousins, and found out there are about eight or nine incidences of female cancers in our family."

Emily Family History case study

"Our doctor told us that we could get assessed at the breast cancer clinic. We were offered a chat with a nurse, and then had an ultrasound. We talked about having genetic screening, but because my mum was over 50, and we didn’t have any aunts, sisters, or grandparents who had had breast cancer, we weren’t offered this. I also knew that my mum didn’t have the BRCA gene mutation.

"The doctor explained that we had a moderate risk, which doesn’t mean that we’re definitely going to get breast cancer, but it does mean that we should be more aware of our bodies and go to the doctor if we see any abnormalities. I’ve changed my diet since my mum died, I’m a lot healthier, I exercise – just doing everything I can to minimise my risk.

"The advice I would give to people if they were in my position, would be to get checked out. Get screened, go and see a doctor, find out about your family history. It doesn’t take too much time, you don’t have to see a doctor very long, and it’s not intrusive.”

More information

Visit the Family History website

We’d love to hear what you thought about our Family history resource. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch us at info@breastcancernow.org, or complete our online survey.