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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Breast cancer risk from modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors

Public Health Impact of DCEG Research


As more and more low penetrant common single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with breast cancer risk are discovered through genomics studies, there is a pressing need for an understanding of their utility in guiding public health strategies.


Montserrat Garcia-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H.,  Paige Maas, Ph.D., Nilanjan Chatterjee, Ph.D., and colleagues developed a risk prediction model, based on both modifiable (alcohol use, exercise, etc.) and nonmodifiable (genetics) risk factors, to assess the absolute risk of breast cancer in women of European background in the United States. They showed that women with high genetic risk have a greater potential for reduction in absolute risk by changing modifiable factors than women with low genetic risk.


This study demonstrated that incorporating common genetic variation risk factors into breast cancer risk models would substantially improve risk stratification and lifestyle recommendations over existing models, which only consider genetics broadly, in terms of family history.

Maas P, Barrdahl M, Joshi AD, et al. Breast cancer risk from modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors among white women in the United States. JAMA Oncol. Published online May 26, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.1025