Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancers

About 1 in every 3 women with breast cancer has a family history of cancer. However, this does not mean that their cancer is hereditary.

Since cancer is so common, it may occur in more than one family member because of similar lifestyle choices, shared environmental factors or purely by chance.

In certain families, cancer is due to hereditary factors. In fact, 5 to 10 percent of cases of breast and ovarian cancer are caused by an inherited change (mutation) in a single gene. The first such genes identified were BRCA1 and BRCA2.


The role of BRCA1 and BRCA2 is to prevent cancer by keeping cells from growing abnormally. If a person inherits a change in one of these genes from either parent, this protection may be lost.

As a result, women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations have an increased lifetime risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer.

Akron Children's Hereditary Cancer Program offers susceptibility testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

If testing identifies a gene change, you have inherited an increased chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing this result may enable a more active role in surveillance and prevention activities.

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancers

If a gene change is not found, your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer is the same as the general population risk.

Because of the complexities of genetic testing, the emotional impact and the possible effects on one's family, finances and health, it's important to be informed before making a decision about testing.

Risk factors

Akron Children's genetic counselors can help you assess your risk. They can also help you decide whether to undergo genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

You may be at risk if you have a personal or family history (on the mother's or father's side) of the following:

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