Researchers are still learning why some women are more likely than others to develop triple-negative breast cancer. Research supports a relationship between risk and your genes, age, race and ethnicity.
Breast Cancer Gene Mutations
Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which we get from our mother and father. When they work properly, these genes prevent the development of cancers. However, less than 10 percent of people with breast cancer are born with a mutation, or abnormality, in BRCA1 or BRCA2. If you are born with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you are at increased risk for developing breast, ovarian and other cancers throughout your life. The BRCA1 mutation puts you at higher risk for developing a basal-like breast cancer. Scientists are still trying to find out why BRCA1 mutations increase the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you and your relatives could carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. You could also be the first person in your family known to develop breast cancer because of a BRCA mutation. Knowing your BRCA status can help you and your doctors discuss an effective treatment plan and learn ways to reduce your risk for recurrence. A genetic counselor can talk with you about genetic testing.
Lifetime risk for breast cancer: 60%-70%
- Risk begins to increase starting at 30 years of age
- Lifetime risk
- Breast cancer: 60%-70% - Ovarian cancer: 40%-50%
PDQ® Cancer Information Summary. Bethesda, Md:
National Cancer Institute. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/genetics/breast-and- ovarian/healthprofessional
National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2005. Available at: http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2005/index.html
- Approximately 75% of patients who have a BRCA1 mutation and in whom breast cancer develops will have the triple negative type.
- Patients with triple negative breast cancer should consider BRCA testing if they:
- Have relatives with ovarian or breast cancer
- Are diagnosed with breast cancer younger than 60 years of age
- Have suspicious pathology or radiologic test results
Kandel MJ, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24(18s):Abstract 508. Somer R, et al. Cancer Res. 2009;(suppl 3):Abstract 4075.
Age, Race or Ethnicity
Several studies suggest that being pre- menopausal, African-American, Latina or Caribbean increases your risk of developing basal-like or triple-negative breast cancer. Among African-American women who develop breast cancer, there is an estimated 20 to 40 percent chance of the breast cancer being triple-negative.
Researchers do not yet understand why premenopausal women and women in some ethnic groups have higher rates of triple- negative breast cancer than other groups of women.
Source: Guide to Understanding Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Extra care and attention to breast health, regular clinical check-ups and quick follow up to any abnormality or lump is especially crucial for these groups.