Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancers among Indian women (19%) after cervical cancer (30%). On an average 80,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 40,000 deaths occur every year due to this disease (GLOBOCAN 2002). In Indian women the age of onset is almost a decade earlier than in Western populations (Saxena et al, 2006).
Approximately 5-10% of the total breast cancer cases are familial (Easton and Peto, 1990; Claus et al., 1991; 1996), with approximately 20% of the familial cases being due to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (Valarmathi et al., 2004). Every woman is born with the BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) genes. When functioning normally, these genes do not pose any risk to a woman's health. However, some women may be born with or experience mutations of the BRCA genes through their lifetime. Though researchers are still uncertain what causes changes in these genes to occur, women who have BRCA mutations are at increased risk for developing breast cancer compared with women who do not have these mutations. Over a lifetime, women with BRCA mutations have a 60% to 85% higher chance of developing breast cancer.