Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Rise in Risk With New Breast Cancer Gene: Study

One in three women with PALB2 mutation will develop disease by age 70


"It's not common, but the risks are significant," Foulkes said. "Particularly for a woman with a strong family history of breast cancer, they may want to find out if they have this mutation."

Genetic tests for breast cancer already include PALB2 in their panel, Foulkes added.

"In the past few years, it's become easier to test for a package of genes at once," he said. "Women who have had a genetic test should go back and check their records. They may have been tested for PALB2 already and not even know it."

The new PALB2 study involved an international team of researchers from 17 centers in eight countries, led by the University of Cambridge. The scientists analyzed data from 362 family members with PALB2 gene mutations from 154 families without BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

Women who carried rare mutations in PALB2 were found to have, on average, a 33 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70.

BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2 all play an important role in the repair of damaged DNA. "PALB2 interacts with BRCA2, and acts as a kind of a bridge between BRCA1 and BRCA2," Foulkes explained. Mutation of any of the genes impairs the body's ability to fix broken DNA, which can lead to cancer.

In a separate study also published in the same issue of the NEJM, doctors identified another gene called MEN1 that is linked to breast cancer.

Mutations of the MEN1 gene can cause a rare inherited cancer of the endocrine glands called multiple endocrine neoplasia, but up to now the gene has not been associated with breast cancer.

Researchers found that women with the disease had more than double the risk of also developing breast cancer.

"If you have multiple endocrine neoplasia, then perhaps more intense breast surveillance may be warranted," Foulkes said. "But because it's so rare, you wouldn't say to a woman with a family history of breast cancer, it's probably due to MEN1. It's important for people who have multiple endocrine neoplasia, but probably not for everyone with a family history of breast cancer."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow