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Editors: Patrick J Morrison, Shirley V Hodgson, Neva E Haites
401 pp Price: £70 ISBN 0-521-80373-X
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Referrals of individuals worried about their family history of cancer now make up about half the workload of regional genetic departments. I was therefore delighted to receive a copy of this book for review. The pleasure was shared by other members of the cancer genetics team who found it immediately useful, thus delaying my critique. The book has its origins in a European Union funded demonstration project entitled 'familial breast cancer: audit of a new development in medical practice in European centres', and the editors represent three of the eleven centres involved. Not all the seventeen chapters are written by people in the EU project; the discussion of how cancer genetics can help in patient care includes contributions from centres the world over.
The book is divided into three sections—molecular biology and natural history; screening; and management. Every aspect relevant to the management of individuals in families with breast and/or ovarian cancer is addressed, and the usefulness of the text is such that I found myself reading it from cover to cover. No chapter is weak; and, for me, the ones that stood out as particularly helpful were the six in the screening section and that on the ethical, social and insurance issues of breast cancer genetics. The only negative point, when reading the book as I did, was that some of the ground is covered repeatedly. However, if the book is used as a reference source—for dipping into specific sections— this can be a strength rather than a weakness.
Who should buy the book? I recommend it to all clinical geneticists working in cancer genetics, to breast surgeons and gynaecologists who deal with these cancers, and to radiologists involved in screening programmes. It provides an excellent review of the state of the art, with all the relevant references. The last two chapters give a taste of what may happen in the future, in terms of gene therapy and further developments in genetics and screening. New surveillance techniques and therapeutic measures, as they emerge, will need to be evaluated in large cohorts of affected and at-risk individuals. The only way this will be achieved is by multicentre collaborations; to this end, the European Biomed 2 group has now evolved into the International Collaborative Group—Familial Breast Ovarian Cancer (IVG-FBOC).