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Hereditary breast cancer has a profound impact on individual family members and on their mutual communication and interactions. The way at-risk women cope with the threat of hereditary breast cancer may depend on the quality of family communication about hereditary breast cancer and on the perceived social support from family and friends.To examine the associations of family communication and social support with long-term psychological distress in a group of women at risk for hereditary breast cancer, who opted either for regular breast surveillance or prophylactic surgery.The study cohort consisted of 222 women at risk for hereditary breast cancer, who previously participated in a study on the psychological consequences of either regular breast cancer surveillance or prophylactic surgery. General and breast cancer specific distress, hereditary cancer-related family communication, perceived social support, and demographics were assessed.Using structural equation modelling, we found that open communication about hereditary cancer within the family was associated with less general and breast cancer specific distress. In addition, perceived support from family and friends was indirectly associated with less general and breast cancer-specific distress through open communication within the family.These findings indicate that family communication and perceived social support from friends and family are of paramount importance in the long-term adaptation to being at risk for hereditary breast cancer. Attention for these issues needs to be incorporated in the care of women at risk for hereditary breast cancer. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.