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Does Breast Cancer Skip a Generation?

I've heard that if a mother develops breast cancer, there's no way her daughter can have it -- but her granddaughter can! Does breast cancer really skip a generation?


No, breast cancer does not skip a generation. While there may be plenty of cases where the disease did, in fact, appear to skip a generation, the genetics of breast cancer just don't work that way. The specifics of how the genetic inheritance works depends on the particular gene in question.
Why does breast cancer sometimes seem to skip a generation? Remember that only 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary. The rest are caused by other factors. Also, just because a woman inherits a breast cancer gene doesn't mean she will definitely develop the disease.
It is possible for a grandmother who had breast cancer to pass the gene to a mother, who didn't get cancer, who passed it on to a granddaughter, who did get cancer, but this situation is caused by the other nongenetic factors and how they interact with genetic factors.
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