By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - A woman's lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about one in eight, but a small percentage of all of those women have an inherited tendency to develop breast and ovarian cancer.

It's called Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome or HBOC and it's the subject of this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment.

"It doesn't mean that these cancers are metastasizing one from the other. These are actually two independent cancers, one that arises in the breast and one that arises in the ovary," said Dr. Julie Margenthaler with the Siteman Cancer Center.

And they've been traced to a genetic mutation. It's called BRCA, and while it's uncommon, found in about 5 to 10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers, it dramatically raises your risk of getting cancer.

"This is a very powerful gene. If you have a mutation in your BRCA gene it means that you will develop a breast cancer in 80 to 90 percent of all women by the age of 70, and 40 to 50 percent of them will develop ovarian cancer by age 70," said Dr. Margenthaler.

So any diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer should include genetic counseling.

"If you do have a significant family history of either breast or ovarian cancer or a combination of those it is something that should be investigated and considered to be tested for that gene," said Dr. Margenthaler.

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