While most breast and ovarian cancers are not associated with a genetic cause, around 5% of breast cancers and 15% of ovarian cancers are due to an inherited gene fault.
For the very small proportion of women (less than 1% of the population) who carry a high risk gene fault, BRCA1 or BRCA2, the lifetime risk for ovarian cancer is up to 60% and for breast cancer, the lifetime risk is up to 80%.
Angelina Jolie, who has a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancers, announced in 2013 that she carried the BRCA1 gene, which puts her at significant risk of also developing these cancers. At that time, Ms Jolie undertook a preventative double mastectomy. Ms Jolie has just announced that she has now also undergone an operation to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy) to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer. Such risk-reducing surgery is one option for consideration by women who have a strong family history, which could potentially put them at increased risk.
Women who are potentially at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer based on family history, should be referred to a family cancer clinic for detailed assessment and individualised discussion about management options.
Any woman concerned about her risk based on family history, is encouraged to consult her GP, who can access Cancer Australia’s online assessment tool, Familial Risk Assessment for Breast and Ovarian Cancers (FRA-BOC).
Further information about breast and ovarian cancer, key statistics and risk factors, including family history, can be found on the Cancer Australia website.
Resources for women:
- Information for women about family history of breast and ovarian cancer
- Information about breast cancer
- Information about ovarian cancer