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Family History of Breast Cancer Doesn't Mean a Poor Prognosis for
Women Who Develop the Disease
A new large study finds that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and have
a family history of the disease face no worse of a prognosis after treatment than
other women with breast cancer. The study, which was published recently in the BJS
(British Journal of Surgery), offers a positive message for women who may worry
about their future in light of a family history of breast cancer.
About one- quarter of breast cancer cases in developed countries are thought to be
related to hereditary factors. It can be scary for a woman to know that she has a
family history of the disease, but after diagnosis, what’s her prognosis compared with
patients without a family history?
To answer this question, Mr. Ramsey Cutress, an Associate Professor in breast
surgery at the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton
Foundation Trust, and his colleagues conducted an analysis of the Prospective
Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary breast cancer (POSH) study, which
included 2850 women under age 41 years who were diagnosed with breast cancer
and treated in the UK. The study, led by principal investigator Professor Diana
Eccles, recorded patients’ personal characteristics, tumour characteristics,
treatment, and family history of breast/ovarian cancer over a 15-year period.
The investigators found that there were no significant differences in cancer
recurrence rates after treatment for women with a history of breast cancer versus
those without.
“Successful treatment for breast cancer is just as likely in young patients with a
family history of breast cancer, as in those without a family history,” said Mr. Cutress.
“Patients with a family history of breast cancer can therefore be reassured that their
family history alone does not mean that their outcome will be worse.”
The researchers now plan to investigate whether certain breast cancer gene variants
have any impact on the effectiveness of different anticancer treatments. “There is
some evidence in laboratory experiments and observations in humans that BRCA1
gene carriers in particular may be more sensitive to certain types of chemotherapy,”
said Professor Eccles. “If the outlook is more optimistic than might be expected for
these patients, this will help in planning future preventive surgical options at the time
of breast cancer treatment.”
Access the full study on the Wiley Press Room here. (To access PDFs and embargoed stories
you must be logged in to the Press Room before clicking the link. Request a login here.)
Full citation: “Family history and outcome of young patients with breast cancer in the UK (POSH
study).” B. K. Eccles, E. R. Copson, R. I. Cutress, T. Maishman, D. G. Altman, P. Simmonds, S. M.
Gerty, L. Durcan, L. Stanton, D. M. Eccles, on behalf of the POSH study steering group. BJS (British
Journal of Surgery); Published Online: May 20, 2015 (DOI: 10.1002/bjs.9816)
URL Upon Publication:
About the Author:
To arrange an interview with the author, please contact Charles Elder, Media Relations Manager at
the University of Southampton, at or
About the Journal:
BJS is the premier peer-reviewed surgical journal in Europe and one of the top surgical periodicals in
the world. Its international readership is reflected in its prestigious international Editorial Board,
supported by a panel of over 1200 reviewers worldwide. BJS features the very best in clinical and
laboratory-based research on all aspects of general surgery and related topics and has a tradition of
publishing high quality papers in breast, upper GI, lower GI, vascular, endocrine and surgical
sciences. Papers include leading articles, reviews and original research articles, correspondence and
book reviews. The journal celebrated its centennial year in 2013. The current impact factor is 4.839.
The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the British Journal of Surgery Society. For more
information, please visit
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