Think about your relatives. Which are “immediate” relatives? And which are “distant” relatives? Which ones “matter” most?
Of course, they all matter! But, face it: You hold some more closely to your breast than others.
Speaking of your breast, do you know which relatives are relative to your breast? I mean, in the sense of breast cancer?
We’ve all heard women talk about the fact that they have a high risk for breast cancer because one relative or another had it, right? Well, the question is “Which relatives are relative to your breast?” In other words, which relatives actually matter in terms of contributing to your risk of breast cancer? Are they all equally relevant?
I’ve heard women say things like, “My father’s cousin on his mother’s side had breast cancer. So, I’m at high risk.” or “My mother’s sister had breast cancer, so I’m terrified.” or “My father’s mother had it, so I’m worried I might get it, too.”
How, exactly, do your various relatives affect your risk of breast cancer?
Few women know the facts on this. But it’s really, really simple. The simplicity of it will relieve you of a lot of concern over many of your relatives.
Only two things matter in terms of the effect your relatives have on your risk of breast cancer: (1) Side, and (2) Distance.
First let’s address “side.”
“Side” refers to which side of the family the relative is on. And there are only two sides: (1) Your mother’s side, or (2) Your father’s side.
And, (drumroll) … the only relatives that have any effect on your risk of breast cancer are the one on your mother’s side of the family. Period!
That should make you sigh a huge sigh of relief! We’ve just erased your father’s entire family from consideration. They have no relevance at all! They don’t matter. Your father’s relatives are not relative to your breast cancer risk.
Now, we’ll address “distance.”
In terms of relatives, “distance” refers to how distant the relative is. This is important because the only relatives who have anything to do with your risk for breast cancer are your most immediate relatives.
Many people use the term “close” relative to include their immediate family members, such as mother, sister, daughter. But, in doc talk, we use the term “first-degree” to refer to your closest relatives.
Your first-degree relatives are those that are only one step removed. In other words, there’s no one in-between connecting you. You are connected directly to each other.
Your mother is a first-degree relative.
Your sister as a first-degree relative.
Your daughter is a first-degree relative.
You have a direct link with all three of these.
Your grand-mother is NOT a first-degree relative. She’s connected to you through your mother.
Your mother’s sister is NOT a first-degree relative. She’s connected to you through your mother.
So, going back to the relatives that are relative to your breast cancer risk. The only relatives who matter are those that are BOTH (1) Maternal and (2) First –degree.
So, now you’ve erased all your father’s relatives from consideration, but also erased all your mother’s relatives who are more distant than those first-degree relatives.
What it boils down to is this: The only relatives that have anything to do with your risk for breast cancer are:
(1) Your mother
(2) Your sister (IF you share the same mother)
(3) Your daughter
It’s so simple. And it should limit your concern to so few people.
I sure hope you’re smiling now. If you’re like most women, you were making many more relatives relative to your breasts than necessary.