Some women are at increased risk of ovarian cancer because they have a strong family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer.
A strong family history means having several close blood relatives (on the mother’s or father’s side of the family) who have had breast or ovarian cancer, especially if this was diagnosed at an early age.
Some women are at increased risk because a family member is known to have inherited a fault in a gene associated with breast or ovarian cancer
If ovarian cancer is caused by inheriting a faulty gene, this is called hereditary cancer. We all inherit a set of genes from each of our parents. Sometimes there’s a fault in one copy of a gene which stops that gene working properly. This fault is called a mutation. There are several genes for which inherited faults may be involved in the development of breast or ovarian cancer. These are genes which normally prevent a woman developing breast or ovarian cancer.
Two genes associated with ovarian cancer are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Their names come from the abbreviation of ‘breast cancer one’ and ‘breast cancer two’. If a woman has inherited a fault in one of these genes, she has a high chance of developing ovarian cancer or breast cancer, although it does not mean that she is certain to develop cancer.
Around 5% of all breast cancers and up to 15% of invasive ovarian cancers can be explained by an inherited gene fault in BRCA1 or BRCA2.
There are a number of factors that can impact on a woman’s family history of ovarian cancer.
The Cancer Australia resource Information for women about family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer helps women to understand their family history of breast or ovarian cancer and can provide an indication of their chance of developing either disease.
For women concerned about their family history of breast or ovarian cancer, their doctor can assess their risk using Cancer Australia’s Familial Risk Assessment – Breast and Ovarian Cancer (FRA-BOC), an online family history assessment tool.