NOTE: Since its discovery in 1995, this type of hereditary cancer has changed from one type of cancer, caused by mutations in only one gene to several types of cancer, caused by mutations in any of many different genes. As a result, all labels used to describe this syndrome, such as ''breast cancer gene'', ''BRCA'', ''hereditary breast and ovarian cancer'' and ''HBOC'' tell only part of the story, leaving out well over half of those who are affected. To better serve our patient group, we are in the process of changing our name and updating all resources to reflect the fully inclusive and future forward RISKY GENES™ brand. We ask for your patience during this process.
In certain cases, your medical professionals may suggest drugs that can be taken to reduce your risk of getting cancer. As with all drugs, learn about the possible side-effects and weigh the pros and cons.
Studies of women in the general population strongly support that using birth control pills lowers the risk for ovarian cancer, but for those who carry risky gene mutations the answer is not yet definitive. However, there have been a few BRCA carrier studies that confirmed that ovarian cancer risk decreased depending on the length of time the contraceptives were used, up to a nearly 40% reduced risk. However, there is a much larger body of evidence to support that birth control pills increase the risk for breast cancer. Key research findings from Dr. Steven Narod's Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit state, Oral-contraceptive use may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene." Among BRCA1 mutation carriers, women who first used oral contraceptives before 1975, who used them before age 30, or who used them for five or more years may have an increased risk of early-onset breast cancer. Oral contraceptives do not appear to be associated with risk of breast cancer in BRCA2 carriers, but data for BRCA2 carriers is limited.
Tamoxifen and raloxifene are examples of breast cancer risk reduction drugs. Both tamoxifen and raloxifene can lower the risk of invasive breast cancer (tamoxifen by about 50 percent and raloxifene by about 38 percent) in women at high risk and are only effective in reduction of estrogen-positive cancer. Tamoxifen is a hormone therapy drug used to both treat and prevent breast cance and Raloxifene is only used to prevent breast cancer, not to treat it. Both drugs cause side-effects, so it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits. These drugs are taken in pill form.