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July 25, 1977

'What Are My Chances of Getting Breast Cancer?'

JAMA. 1977;238(4):345-346. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280040065030

AT A FORMAL dinner one evening last year, I was seated beside a young woman, a physician, who posed a question because I, an oncologist, should know the answer. "What are my chances of getting breast cancer?" Before I could clear my professorial throat she went on, "Every woman in my mother's family has breast cancer or has died of it, my mother, her mother, my mother's sister, the sister's daughter, my own sister. With a family history like that, what are my chances?" Many women ask that question, wondering to themselves or aloud to their doctor. Who can make a prediction for an individual? We can only answer with statistics and consider the problems of high risk and low risk.

One in Fifteen  In one of every 15 women, breast cancer will develop. Some characteristics are associated with higher incidence. Endocrine cycles of the body modify the size, activity,