How Much Does Family History Affect Breast Cancer Risk?
Another controversial study about mammograms recently set me off on a reading frenzy. Mammograms save lives…no they don’t…yes they do…no they don’t… It’s enough to make your head explode. There’s a lot of information to digest, but I’m not going to try to sway you one way or another.
Instead, I want address a related issue. It was during that recent reading frenzy that I noticed a disturbing trend among commenters who put a whole lot of stock in their family health history. Some seem to think that a cancer-free history is a free pass, but I’m here to tell you that it is not.
Here’s the thing: according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only about 10 percent of all breast cancer cases are due to inherited genes. Clearly, a clean family history of breast cancer is no guarantee that you won’t get it. In fact, the American Cancer Society (ACI) says that only about 5-10 percent of all cancers are the result of defective genes inherited from a parent.
I’m a great example of the family history trap. I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2010. There was no incidence of breast cancer of any kind in my family. I was unaware then, and am unaware still, of any blood relative who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve never been a smoker, never been obese, and I’ve loved fruits and veggies since I was a child. On the other hand, I haven’t always exercised quite as much as I should.
So, while I’m not the person to tell you what cancer-screening tests you should get, or when or how often, I do want to give you food for thought regarding your family’s health history. A history of cancer in the family means you should take lifestyle and medical choices very seriously.
A clean cancer slate is a fantastic starting point, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. There’s a lot more at play when it comes to cancer. Please keep that in mind when you make lifestyle and medical decisions. Don’t let your family history be the death of you.
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