News Release

August 31, 2006

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Women with Certain Genes Have a High Risk of Developing Breast and/or Ovarian Cancer

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – During September, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, the University of Connecticut Health Center is joining with the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation to educate women about familial breast-ovarian cancer syndrome. Women with this syndrome have a 90 percent risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer during their lifetime. By contrast, women without this syndrome have about a 10 percent chance of developing breast cancer and an almost two percent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

About 1 out of every 500 individuals in the general population are members of a family that inherit and pass on a mutation or change in the Breast Cancer 1 (BRCA1) or the Breast Cancer 2 (BRCA2) gene, the cause of familiar breast-ovarian cancer syndrome.

“While these statistics are alarming,” said Carolyn Runowicz, M.D., director of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer at the UConn Health Center and the president of the American Cancer Society, “there are steps every woman can take to manage this increased risk.”

First, it is extremely important for women to know their family history of these cancers. Second, if it is determined that a woman is at increased risk after undergoing genetic counseling and testing, she should discuss the various strategies for managing this risk with her health care provider, explained Runowicz.

Women who are found to have these changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes should consider more intense clinical monitoring, including mammograms, MRIs, pelvic exams and a blood test called a CA 125 test. Women at high risk also have the opportunity to enroll in several clinical studies that are being conducted at the UConn Health Center. The studies are evaluating new screening tests like proteomics, a blood test looking at protein patterns. Medication, life-style changes and preventive surgery also should be considered.

“It is our hope that during September, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, and October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women will have an opportunity to learn more about the inherited link between breast and ovarian cancer, and take appropriate measures,” said Karl C. Podratz., M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

“Because the biggest risk factor for breast cancer is age, all women are at risk,” said Runowicz. “So it is important for women to have their annual screening mammograms after age 40, and earlier if they are at higher risk because of these genetic mutations.”

The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) was established in 1991 to develop educational programs for women, and create awareness about the prevention, early detection and treatment of gynecologic cancers. The Foundation also supports research and training related to gynecologic cancers. To learn more, visit or the Women’s Cancer Network at

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