The majority of women with a family history of breast cancer are not carriers of BRCA or other known harmful breast cancer mutations. Yet women with such a history have a higher risk of the disease than the general population. Furthermore, they are more likely to get breast cancer at a younger age, depending on family members affected.
Now a new study has reported that women with a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) diagnosed by age 45 may wish to consider starting breast cancer screening five to eight years earlier than their relative's age at diagnosis.

Latest research reports early screening benefits for some

The study referenced above was designed to determine the age at which women with a first-degree family history of breast cancer should begin screening. To conduct the study, the authors used 1996-2016 screening data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. The study included 306,147 women aged 30 to 59 for whom the authors were able to obtain information concerning whether there was first degree family history and, if so, the relative's age at diagnosis.
Approximately 11% (3,885) of the study participants had a first-degree relative with breast cancer. Those with a first-degree relative diagnosed between ages 40 and 49 who themselves underwent screening between ages 30 and 39 had a similar five-year cumulative incidence of breast cancer (18.6/1000) as women without such a family history who underwent screening between ages 50 and 59 (18.0/1000). The results were similar for those with a first degree family history who underwent screening between ages 40 and 49 (18.4/1000).
When a first degree relative was diagnosed between age 35 to 45, beginning breast cancer screening 5 to 8 years before the relative's age at diagnosis resulted in a five-year cumulative rate of breast cancer of 15.2/1000 (comparable to that of an average 50-year-old woman).
The authors conclude that women with a first degree relative diagnosed by age 45 might consider (after discussing with their provider) beginning breast cancer screening five to eight years earlier than that relative's age at diagnosis.
Please see our article on familial breast cancer for more information.