Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, PhD, MPH, a researcher at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit, and colleagues evaluated 78,171 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1993–1998. At the study start, all were free of breast cancer. When follow-up ended in 2009, 3,506 breast cancer cases had been diagnosed. The researchers looked to see which patients’ family members had either breast or prostate cancer.
The researchers found that a family history of prostate cancer was associated with a 14% increase in breast cancer risk after adjustments for confounders. Women with a family history of both prostate and breast cancer were at a 78% greater risk of developing breast cancer. And the risk was greater for black women than whites.
The findings underscore the need for women to know their complete family medical history, “particularly cancer diagnosed among first-degree relatives,” including fathers, brothers, and sons, Beebe-Dimmer told HealthDay. Doctors should ask about all cancers in the family, even in members of the opposite sex, she suggested. “Communication of this information to the physician is important in assessing future risk of breast cancer and may impact screening recommendations,” Beebe-Dimmer added.