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Genetic Counseling & Risk Assessment

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

The Gail Model

Many health care providers use a model known as the "Gail Model" to estimate a woman’s risk for breast cancer. The Gail Model works well for most women, but underestimates the risk for breast cancer in women with HBOC. It doesn't incorporate some factors associated with hereditary cancer risk:

  • It only counts first-degree female relatives.
    • Hereditary cancer can be passed down from either your father's side or your mother's side of the family. Collecting family medical history from both sides is important.
    • Information about second- and third-degree relatives is significant for calculating hereditary cancer risk.
  • It doesn't take into account relatives with ovarian or other less common cancers.
    • Hereditary breast cancer risk is linked to ovarian cancer. Since ovarian cancer is rare, its presence in a family can indicate hereditary risk for breast cancer.
    • Male breast cancer, also rare, significantly increases the likelihood of hereditary cancer in the family.
  • It doesn't consider the ages of breast cancer onset.
    • Premenopausal breast cancer (occurring before age 50) in a family increases the likelihood that the cancer in the family is hereditary.
  • It doesn't consider ethnicity.
    • Certain populations, such as people of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent, may be at particularly high risk for hereditary breast cancer.

If you have had your breast cancer risk calculated using the Gail Model, and you have any family history features not accounted for by these models, your risk estimate may be inaccurate. Please consult with a cancer genetics expert to help you better understand your individual risks.

Updated 8/31/16

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