The risk of breast cancer in first degree relatives of patients with breast cancer can be derived from family history and is dependent upon the age at diagnosis in the index patient. For the relatives of index patients older than 55, the relative risk is 1.57, if less than 55 the relative risk is 2.29, and 3.85 if less than 45 (95% confidence limits 0.83 to 2.68, 1.18 to 4.01, and 1.67 to 3.85, respectively). First degree relatives of patients with bilateral breast cancer have a 6.43-fold increase in risk (95% confidence limits 1.32 to 18.77). The genetic contribution to overall lifetime liability to breast cancer in the relatives declines rapidly with increasing age of onset of breast cancer in the index patient from 37% at 20 years to 8% by 45 years. This information can be used in clinical practice for counselling and the establishment of screening programmes.
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