Introduction: A genetic component is well established in the etiology of breast cancer. It is not well known, however, whether genetic traits also influence prognostic features of the malignant phenotype.
Methods: We carried out a population-based cohort study in Sweden based on the nationwide Multi-Generation Register. Among all women with breast cancer diagnosed from 1961 to 2001, 2,787 mother-daughter pairs and 831 sister pairs with breast cancer were identified; we achieved complete follow-up and classified 5-year breast cancer-specific prognosis among proband (mother or oldest sister) into tertiles as poor, intermediary, or good. We used Kaplan-Meier estimates of survival proportions and Cox models to calculate relative risks of dying from breast cancer within 5 years depending on the proband's outcome.
Results: The 5-year survival proportion among daughters whose mothers died within 5 years was 87% compared to 91% if the mother was alive (p = 0.03). Among sisters, the corresponding proportions were 70% and 88%, respectively (p = 0.001). After adjustment for potential confounders, daughters and sisters of a proband with poor prognosis had a 60% higher 5-year breast cancer mortality compared to those of a proband with good prognosis (hazard ratio [HR], 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 to 2.2; p for trend 0.002). This association was slightly stronger among sisters (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.0 to 3.4) than among daughters (HR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.3).
Conclusion: Breast cancer prognosis of a woman predicts the survival in her first-degree relatives with breast cancer. Our novel findings suggest that breast cancer prognosis might be inherited.