Presymptomatic DNA testing and prophylactic surgery in families with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation

Lancet. 2000 Jun 10;355(9220):2015-20. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(00)02347-3.


Background: Germline mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes highly predispose to breast and ovarian cancer. In families with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, identification of mutation carriers is clinically relevant in view of the options for surveillance and prevention.

Methods: We assessed presymptomatic DNA testing and prophylactic surgery in 53 consecutive families presenting to the Rotterdam Family Cancer Clinic with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. We identified predictors for DNA testing and prophylactic surgery with univariate and multivariate analysis.

Findings: 682 unaffected individuals with a 50% risk (275 women and 271 men) or with a 25% risk (136 women) for carrying a mutation were identified and offered a DNA test. Presymptomatic DNA testing was requested by 48% (198 of 411) of women and 22% (59 of 271) of men (odds ratio for difference between sexes 3.21 [95% CI 2.27-4.51]; p<0.001). In women, DNA testing was significantly more frequent at young age, in the presence of children, and at high pre-test genetic risk for a mutation. Of the unaffected women with an identified mutation who were eligible for prophylactic surgery, 51% (35 of 68) opted for bilateral mastectomy and 64% (29 of 45) for oophorectomy. Parenthood was a predictor for prophylactic mastectomy but not for prophylactic oophorectomy. Age was significantly associated with prophylactic oophorectomy, but not with prophylactic mastectomy, although there was a tendency towards mastectomy at younger ages.

Interpretation: In a clinical setting, we show a high demand for BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing by unaffected women at risk, and of prophylactic surgery by unaffected women with the mutation. Young women with children especially opt for DNA testing and prophylactic mastectomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • DNA, Neoplasm / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genetic Carrier Screening / methods
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Germ-Line Mutation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mastectomy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Netherlands
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery
  • Ovariectomy*
  • Parity
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • BRCA2 Protein
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Transcription Factors