Genetic Dispositions

Breast cancer has seen a significant amount of interest being raised over the past few years, with major non-profit organizations such as Pink Ribbon International promoting awareness through venues such as the NFL and other major high-profile avenues. While awareness of the disease has never been higher, most still do not have much in-depth knowledge about it and what factors are known to influence an average person’s chances of contracting it.

Over their lifetime, roughly 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer, with over 275,000 cases diagnosed per year. Though it’s rare, roughly 1 in 883 men will also develop the disease. It’s the second most commonly diagnosed and deadly forms of cancer in women, beaten out only by skin and lung cancers, respectively.

There are a variety of different parts of the breasts that cancer can develop in, each of which has a unique prognosis – ductal (ducts that carry milk from lobes to the nipple), lobular, phyllodes, and angiosarcoma cancers all reflect the origin point of the invasive tumor. The tumors spread when a cancerous cell – a cell that will infinitely divide thanks to alterations to the genetic code – breaks off from the tumor and travels to different parts of the body through the cardiovascular or lymphatic systems.

Breast cancer has a number of different causes that can be categorized into either genetic or epigenetic. Epigenetic refers to alterations to our genetics or how they are expressed that come from forces outside of the normal cellular processes, such as radiation. Epigenetic factors range from spending too much time out in the sun, to smoking, to obesity, each of which increases chances of negative health consequences such as cancer.

Around 85% of breast cancer diagnoses are primarily due to epigenetic factors, while 15% are due to genetics. A woman’s chances of developing breast cancer are doubled when a first-degree relative such as a mother, sister, or daughter are diagnosed with the disease.

About 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to specific gene mutations that effect both men and women. Women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are far more susceptible to the development of invasive tumors, with chances increasing to 72% and 69% respectively for each mutation. Men with the mutation significant increase their chances of developing breast cancer going from a .1% chance increasing to a 6.8% chance, or a factor of 68.

These genetic mutations can be caught early through testing, leading to a much better prognosis. A patient who is aware of the high likelihood of developing the disease will take steps to lead a healthier lifestyle to limit epigenetic amplification of the problem, and will be more cognizant and regular in their health screenings both at home and with a physician.

With many health care providers still limiting the number of patients they can see; many would find it highly convenient to take the test at home. One option for a medicare covered breast cancer test that doesn’t require a doctor’s visit or an expensive trip to the lab is the MyConcierge at-home genetics test. The company can screen patients for genetic factors that can influence their chances of developing a variety of cancers, including breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

The earlier you catch diseases, the better the prognosis. Genetic tests allow you to be screened for diseases before they even develop, allowing you to course correct your lifestyle to avoid the diagnosis altogether.