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Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Family Health History

mother and daughters

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. About 7 out of 100 women (or 7%) will get breast cancer by age 70; about 1 out of 100 women (or 1%) will get ovarian cancer by age 70. While ovarian cancer is less common, it is much harder to detect and often more serious. Most breast and ovarian cancers occur in women after the age of 50. Learn more about breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The Importance of Family Health History

Family health history is an important factor affecting a woman’s risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer. Every woman should be aware of these cancers in her family. In general, the more close relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer, and the earlier their ages of diagnosis, the greater a woman’s risk. Close relatives include parents, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Family History Risk Categories of Women
in the General Population

Graph of Family History Risk Categories of Women - Text description provided below

[A text description of the graph is also available.]

The majority of women in the general population have family histories that mean they are at average risk. Some women with breast or ovarian cancer in their families will have a somewhat increased or moderate risk. Only about 2% of women will have a family history that is considered strong.  In some families with a strong history, genetic testing may be helpful. 

To understand if you could have an increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer based on your family health history, see family history risk categories for more information.

Read quick facts about Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Family Health History.


Keep reading to understand your risks for breast and ovarian cancer and whether genetic testing might be right for you:


The CDC Office of Public Health Genomics makes available the above information as a public service only. Providing this information does not constitute endorsement by the CDC.  Note that some links may become invalid over time.

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