Updated: Sep 18
Let’s talk BRCA! If the BReast CAncer gene refers to breasts, then why do we include men?
Men have breast tissue, men can carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations and can be at increased risk for certain cancers.
While cancer risks in male BRCA mutation carriers are not as dramatically elevated as those of female BRCA mutation carriers, cancer risk management and early detection are crucial. It is important for both men and women to remember that a family history of breast, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic cancers on their father’s side of the family may indicate a hereditary gene mutation. Many people mistakenly believe a family history of breast or ovarian cancer only matters on their mother’s side of the family. Men can inherit a BRCA gene mutation from their mother or father and can pass on their BRCA gene mutation to their male and female children.
There is a proven scientific association between genetics and increased cancer risk.
That risk is not a guarantee of cancer. Knowing your family history and understanding
Your risk is the first step to early monitoring and minimizing health risks.
So what is BRCA?
Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes help repair damage to the DNA within cells. However, some individuals inherit a mutation in one of their BRCA genes, which increases their risk for certain cancers, including breast (female and male), ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers, as well as melanoma. Those who test positive for a gene mutation have options available to lower and manage their cancer risks.
Inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are not common. About 1 in 500 to 1 in 800 individuals in the general population have a mutation. Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA1/2 mutation. This is at least a ten times greater probability than that of the general population.
If a mother or father carries a mutation, there is a 50% chance of passing it on to each child. This means that not all individuals from families with BRCA mutations inherit the same cancer risk.
Frequently Asked Questions About BRCA1 and BRCA2
Who should consider genetic counseling for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations?
Men in a family with a known BRCA mutation
Men with a personal history of male breast cancer
Men with a personal history of prostate cancer with at least one close relative with breast cancer under age 50 or ovarian or pancreatic or prostate cancer at any age
Men with a personal history of pancreatic cancer with at least one close relative with breast cancer under age 50 or ovarian or pancreatic or prostate cancer at any age
Men with a personal history of pancreatic cancer and are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
Men with a family history of breast cancer under age 50 or cancer in both breasts or ovarian cancer or any of the above criteria may also be recommended for genetic counseling
Where can I get more information about BRCA1/2 and help finding a genetics specialist?
Visit www.basser.org or call the Basser Center at (215) 662-2748. The National Society of Genetic Counselors (www.nsgc.org) is also a helpful resource for finding genetics professionals in your area. JScreen, MyFaultyGene and FORCE are other organizations available for more information on testing and hereditary cancers. You can also read more about hereditary cancers on the Genetics page at HIS Breast Cancer Awareness along with additional links for additional support here.
November 10, 2022 is Genetic Counselor Awareness Day. The perfect day to reach out to your local center and speak with a genetic counselor and learn more about your family health history. Also it’s the perfect time to thank them for their challenging work to educate and often sharing the disheartening news- you carry the BRCA Mutation which not only affects you, but all of your family.
Knowing you may have or have passed a genetic mutation down to your children or your children’s children is upsetting and scary. In addition to BRCA there are several others that increase the risk of a (breast) cancer diagnosis such as PALB2, CHEK2 and ATM. Giving them the knowledge so they can receive the diagnostic testing needed for an earlier detection of cancer may save their life!
Editor; Vicki Singer Wolf, Cofounder and BRCA2 mutation carrier
Modeh Ani - I Am Thankful
Some of the above Information From the Basser Center for BRCA in collaboration with HIS Breast Cancer.