Preferences for breast cancer prevention among women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation

Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer

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Background: Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have high lifetime risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The decision to embark on risk reduction strategies is a difficult and personal one. We surveyed an international group of women with BRCA mutations and measured choices and sequence of breast cancer risk reduction strategies.

Methods: Women with a BRCA1/2 mutation and no previous cancer diagnosis were recruited from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and from a national advocacy group. Using an online survey, we asked about cancer-risk reduction preferences including for one of two hypothetical medicines, randomly assigned, and women's recommendations for a hypothetical woman (Susan, either a 25- or 36-year-old). Sunburst diagrams were generated to illustrate hierarchy of choices.

Results: Among 598 respondents, mean age was 40.9 years (range 25-55 years). Timing of the survey was 4.8 years (mean) after learning their positive test result and 33% had risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (RRBSO) and bilateral mastectomy (RRBM), while 19% had RRBSO only and 16% had RRBM only. Although 30% said they would take a hypothetical medicine, 6% reported taking a medicine resembling tamoxifen. Respondents were 1.5 times more likely to select a hypothetical medicine for risk reduction when Susan was 25 than when Susan was 36. Women assigned to 36-year-old Susan were more likely to choose a medicine if they had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer and personal experience taking tamoxifen.

Conclusions: Women revealed a willingness to undergo surgeries to achieve largest reduction in breast cancer risk, although this would not be recommended for a younger woman in her 20s. The goal of achieving the highest degree of cancer risk reduction is the primary driver for women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in selecting an intervention and a sequence of interventions, regardless of whether it is non-surgical or surgical.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Pages (from-to)20
JournalHereditary cancer in clinical practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2020


  • BRCA1
  • BRCA2
  • Choices
  • High-risk women
  • International study
  • Preferences
  • Prevention
  • Risk-reducing surgeries
  • Survey
  • Unaffected women


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