Dr. Bonni Guerin, oncologist at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit and director of the hospital's Multidisciplinary Breast Conference, named several risk factors.
Most relate to life events that maximize ovulation, which produces estrogen to rebuild the uterine lining after menstruation.
"Risks for breast cancer include if you had an early first period; if you never had a child; if you had a child later in life; if you had a late menopause; if you had more than 10 years of high-dose estrogen, such as in birth control pills; and if you used hormone replacement therapy," she
According to Guerin
, only 5 percent of all breast cancers are associated with the genes, which are especially but not exclusively found in people with Ashkenazi Jewish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Dutch backgrounds.
"BRCA positivity doesn't necessarily mean the cancer you get is worse, but it does mean that you have a greater tendency to get it," Guerin
"I've read risks as low as 30 percent and as high as 80 percent."
The average age for breast cancer in this country is 55 years old, she
"But for BRCA, it's younger," Guerin
"So if any 32-year-old woman -- and not just Ashkenazi Jewish women -- walks into my office, and she
has breast cancer, she's
getting BRCA tested because that's just not right."
Another natural candidate for the $3,000 test, which can be conducted with blood or saliva, is someone who has bilateral breast cancer, meaning cancer in both breasts.
At Overlook Hospital
has helped develop a prevention program for all patients -- not just high-risk patients -- that encompasses a three-hour analysis of genetics, diet and lifestyle as well as a clinical exam and a digital mammogram with computer-assisted detection read by a specially trained breast-image reader.
Other technologies are included, as needed.