Men with faulty gene may carry breast cancer risk

6 Jul 2010

Men who carry a faulty BRCA2 gene have a 1 in 15 chance of developing breast cancer by the time they reach 70, suggests the largest study of its kind, published online in the Journal of Medical Genetics.

Carriage of a faulty BRCA2 gene in women significantly increases their chances of developing breast cancer, and often at a young age. But it has not been clear whether men are susceptible, largely because few studies have been carried out, and published research has been based on retrospective data.

In the current study the research team used both retrospective and prospective data from 321 families with a faulty BRCA2 gene.

The families were identified at two genetic centres, serving a population of around 10 million people, in Manchester and Birmingham in Central North West England.

Twenty men among the 321 families had developed breast cancer between the ages of 29 and 79, and there were a total of 905 first degree male relatives (parent or sibling) of known BRCA2 carriers.

Among these first degree relatives, 16 men (2%) had developed the disease. Eight further cases of breast cancer occurred in second degree relatives, two of whom were also BRCA2 carriers.

On the basis of these figures, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in men by the age of 70 is one in 15 (7.1%), and one in 12 (8.4%) by the age of 80.

And on the basis of all the research published on the risks of breast cancer in men with a faulty BRCA2 gene, the authors suggest that men in the West have a lifetime risk of between 6% and 9%.

"These risks are sufficient to increase awareness of breast cancer among men in BRCA2 families and to stress the importance of early presentation with breast symptoms," conclude the authors.

Source: BMJ Group