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by HIS Breast Cancer Awareness

Male Breast Cancer and the BRCA Genetic Mutation

A look at the BRCA genetic mutation and its link to breast cancer.

Some types of cancer are typically associated with a particular gender. For example, Breast Cancer is typically a disease that many people associate with women. What many people don't realize, however, is that with breast tissue present in men and women, men can also be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Often cause by genetic pre-dispositions and mutations such as the BRCA genetic mutation, understanding male Breast Cancer, it's causes and how to live a healthy style for the management and prevention of this disease is essential for every person with a history of breast cancer in their family.

How does breast cancer occur?

Cancers occur when mutations happen in the genes that regulate cell growth. When a mutation occurs, cells can divide and multiply at an uncontrolled rate. If these cells continue multiplying and get progressively more abnormal, a tumor can form. These tumors form in different parts of the body depending on the specific gene mutation present in a person.

There are specific gene mutations that have been linked to particular cancers. The BRCA gene mutation, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are the most common BRCA mutations that impact the likelihood of being diagnosed breast cancer.

What is the BRCA gene mutation?

The BRCA gene mutation is the mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. These genes are tumor suppressor genes helping to repair damaged DNA. People with mutations in these genes have five times the normal risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. When the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is mutated or altered, meaning that it doesn't function correctly, DNA damage can't be repaired properly. When DNA damage can't be repaired, cells can develop genetic alterations, and this is when genetic alterations that lead to cancer can occur. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene can be inherited from a person's mother or father. A child of a parent who carries the mutation has a 50% chance of inheriting the BRCA gene mutation.

How do you know if you have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?

There are several tests available to check for the presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. To be tested, a DNA sample (usually blood or saliva) is needed. This sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results usually take about a month.

According to the United States Preventative Services Task Force, women who have family members with breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer should be evaluated to see if they have an increased risk of a harmful gene mutation. The same goes for men too. If a person has a family history that suggests the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation may be present, it's often best to start by testing a family member who has cancer if that person is willing to be tested. If this person has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, other family members could consider genetic counseling to discuss their potential cancer risk and if testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations is appropriate.

Why talk to a genetic counselor about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?