The BBC website reports today that women at risk of breast cancer miss out on tests and early diagnosis because their father’s family’s health history is disregarded, a study has suggested. Canadian researchers say in Lancet Oncology that women were more likely to report a history of the disease on their mother’s side. They found women with a maternal cancer history were five times more likely to be referred by family doctors. A UK cancer charity said a father’s history was “often overlooked”.

It is thought that between 5% and 10% of breast and ovarian cancers are the result of a genetic inheritance. This is equally likely to have come from either the father or mother. A significant chunk of this genetic risk is known to come from defects on either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which make it much more likely that a woman will develop breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime. If a woman has a strong family history of breast cancer, she can be referred for further testing to see if she has a known gene defect. She can then take steps to reduce the risk, or simply get checked more regularly to catch the cancer early.

Read the full article on the BBC website

The NHS National Genetics Education and Development Centre website has more information and resources on collecting, recording and interpreting family history information.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Read Joy’s real life breast cancer story on the Telling Stories Understanding Real Life Genetics website