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Family history matters: know yours

The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health is promoting a checklist to help patients and their physicians identify “red flags” in their family history that might warrant genetic testing.

Women may have a higher risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer if anyone in their family has had:

  • Breast cancer before age 50.
  • Ovarian cancer at any age.
  • Bilateral or multiple primary cancers (breast or ovarian).
  • Multiple family members with breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or prostate cancer.
  • Two or more close relatives with breast or ovarian cancer.
  • Male breast cancer.
  • Ashkenazi ancestry (with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer).

Women may have a higher risk of getting colorectal cancer if anyone in their family has had:

  • Colorectal or endometrial cancer before age 50.
  • Multiple or primary family history of colon, endometrial, ovarian, or gastric cancers.
  • Multiple colorectal polyps or polyposis.

To talk to a genetic counselor about your risk, contact Mary Ahrens, M.S., C.G.C., of the Familial Cancer Clinic at the University of Minnesota at 612-625-2134 or, or for more information, visit

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