National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week

September 25 - October 1, 2016


National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Week marks the transition between National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal of National HBOC Week is to raise awareness about these hereditary cancer and support greater understanding of HBOC syndrome and the range of cancers associated with it. During this week, the Connecticut Department of Public Health Genomics Office encourages Connecticut residents and healthcare providers to learn more about the risk factors and preventive steps associated with HBOC syndrome.

Among Connecticut women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death. During 2009 – 2013, Connecticut had the third highest female breast cancer incidence rate in the nation for women of all ages, and the second highest rate in women younger than 50 years of age. Approximately 3,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Connecticut women annually.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Connecticut women 25-54 years of age and is a major cause of premature mortality among females. Ovarian cancer is less common than breast cancer, but is more often fatal. During 2009 – 2013, ovarian cancer was the third leading cause of cancer death among Connecticut women and accounted for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Within the same time period, Connecticut had the third highest incidence rate for ovarian cancers in the U.S. Annually, approximately 280 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in Connecticut women.

Together, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for about 20-25% of hereditary breast cancers and about 5-10% of all breast cancers. In addition, mutations in these genes account for approximately 15% of ovarian cancers. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful BRCA1/2 mutation.

Women with early-onset (under age 50) breast cancer and all women with ovarian cancer are also at high risk of carrying genetic mutations in the BRCA1/2 genes. Knowledge of BRCA mutation status is useful in guiding treatment decisions and is important information for family members.

Public health experts estimate that 5% to 10% of cancers are inherited, and this number may exceed 30% for some cancers in certain population groups. The benefits of genetic counseling and testing for individuals with personal or family histories of cancer are well known, but according to recent studies, many doctors do not know when to refer patients for these services.


For more information about HBOC Syndrome, risk assessment and family health history tools, the DPH-Genomics Office and national websites offer many useful resources. Check out a few of these resources listed below:



1. State Cancer Profiles. Accessed September 13, 2016.

2.  Table 10: CT resident deaths, 2013: Top Five Leading Causes of Death by Age and Sex. September 13, 2016. Available at:|#46987.

3.  Connecticut Resident Deaths, 2009-2013: Age-adjusted years of potential life lost (YPLL) under 65 and 75 per 100,000 population for selected causes of death by sex of decedent. Age-adjusted using 2000 U.S. standard million. Accessed September 13, 2016. Available at:

4.  Campeau PM, Foulkes WD, Tischkowitz MD. Hereditary breast cancer: New genetic developments, new therapeutic avenues. Human Genetics. 2008; 124:31–42.

5.  Easton DF. How many more breast cancer predisposition genes are there? Breast Cancer Research. 1999; 1:14–17.
6.  Pal T, Permuth-Wey J, Betts JA, et al. BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for a large proportion of ovarian carcinoma cases. Cancer. 2005; 104(12):2807–2816.

7. Mikat-Stevens NA, Larson IA, Tarini BA. Primary-care providers’ perceived barriers to integration of genetics services: a systematic review of the literature. Gen Med. 2014 Sep 11.