Will you inherit breast cancer?

Cancer Backup, a UK cancer information charity, have launched a new service, called “OPERA“, which stands for Online Personal Education and Risk Assessment. It is a webpage, that gives you information on your own risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, with all the usual disclaimers, that you must check with your GP if you have any concerns.

To use the website, you need to answer about 10 questions on your family history and at the end you’ll get a one page summary giving you more information. To answer the questions you need to know a bit about how old your relatives were when they were diagnosed with cancer and whether they had breast or ovarian cancer or both.

The key to using these sort of online tools, is to read the information and do something with it, and not just answer the questions and then sit and worry about the results. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy comes to mind, with the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned across the front.  A high risk means you should discuss it with your doctor, it is not a medical emergency, in other words, don’t panic!

There are other online risk assessment tools, but the OPERA one mentioned above is meant for people in the UK.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US have a similar tool you can find it here.

The NCI also produce a website that is intended for use by medical professionals,  it gives information on your risk of developing breast cancer, both in the next five years and if you live to be 90 years old. You can have a look at it here.

Again this is an American website and is based on American research data, but generally the same points apply to women in the UK and in the US. An interesting point, that is made in the US website (but not the UK one), is the effect of obesity on breast cancer.  The more overweight you are the more your risk of breast cancer increases. There are many reasons for this, but there is no doubt about it, being physically active is a good thing, it means you are less likely to develop cancers (although it is no gurantee, I’m sure everyone knows of fit active people who have cancer)

The NCI website also has a good section explaining what risk actually is (which is way more complicated than you might first imagine) and explaning how you can lower your risk of certain cancers, so if you want to know more you can browse for more information here.

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