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Ashkenazi Jewish People and Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

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13 Things. Read and share 13 Things the Jewish Community Needs to Know about Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.

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Learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, risk management and treatment options, and hereditary cancer research.

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Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish people have a higher incidence of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer than any other ethnic group.


“Thank you for sharing this important information! My family is small and my BRCA mutation came from my dad, so there wasn’t much cancer in my family. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my 30s and read about BRCA mutations in Jewish people, I decided to pursue genetic counseling and testing.”

A FORCE member

Consider These Important Facts
  • BRCA mutations, the gene changes that cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, are found in about 2.5% (one in forty) of Jewish people.
  • About 40% of Jewish women with ovarian/fallopian tube cancer and 20% who have premenopausal breast cancer have a BRCA mutation.
  • The majority of BRCA mutations in Jewish people occur in one of three sites along the genes. Genetic testing usually begins with a “Multisite 3” panel which looks for these common mutations and is less expensive than full BRCA testing.
  • BRCA mutations are associated with other cancers.  Gather your entire family cancer history and speak with a genetics expert about whether the cancers might be hereditary. Cancers related to BRCA mutations include:
    » Breast
    » Ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal
    » Pancreatic
    » Melanoma
    » Prostate
    » Male breast cancer
  • People who test positive for a BRCA mutation have options to lower the risk for cancer or detect it at an earlier, more treatable stage.
  • Fanconi Anemia is a rare inherited disorder that can affect children who inherit two BRCA2 gene mutations, one from each parent. If both parents have a BRCA 2 mutation, their children are at risk for this disease. This is more likely when both of the parents are of Jewish descent.
The Importance of Genetic Counseling

Genetic testing for BRCA is done on a blood sample or cheek swab. The test itself is simple, but it’s not always straight forward. Consulting with an expert in cancer genetics like a genetic counselor or geneticist is the best way to assure that the correct test is ordered and the results are properly interpreted.

Genetic counseling is covered by most types of insurance. To find a genetic counselor in your area, visit National Society of Genetic Counselors or Informed Medical Decisions.

Jewish Community in the News

The Power to Protect is Yours, May 9, 2014, American Jewish World

Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention, Jewish Federation Holds Forum, April 2, 2014, Hartford Courant

Alumni News: Sivan Kredow Schondorf, North Shore University Health System’s Go to Gal on BRCA Topic, January 31, 2014, Solomon Schecter Day Shabbat Bulletin

Hakarat Ha’Tov, Recognizing FORCE, December 2013, The Tablet
Program Alerts Jewish Women to Genetic Risks of Breast CancerOctober 26, 2013, Miami Herald
Searching for Breast Cancer Gene, October 8, 2013, Jewish Journal
BRCA ‘Jewish’ Cancer Gene Mutations Often Go Untested – At Deadly Cost: One Woman’s Survival Fight Doomed by Lack of Testing, August 13, 2013, The Jewish Daily Forward

BRCA Gene Decision Hailed, June 14, 2013, Jewish Journal

Beyond The Angelina Jolie Media Frenzy: Facts About BRCA, May 17, 2013, The New York Jewish Week

Jewish Women Declare Victory on Supreme Court BRCA Gene Mutation Case, June 13, 2013, The Jewish Daily Forward

Jewish Women Call Angelina Jolie Inspiration For Breast Cancer Surgery, May 15, 2013, Jewish Daily Forward

South Florida Jews Help Unearth Clues to Genetic Diseases, April 25, 2013, SunSentinel

Jewish Ethics and Biotech Innovation Clash in Supreme Court’s BRCA Gene Case, April 18, 2013, The Jewish Daily Forward

Mutations and Men, October 16, 2012, The Jewish Week

Confronting the Silent Killer, October 10, 2012, The Jewish Week

The Right Choice, October 9, 2012, Jewish Journal

Previvor Urges Prevention in Fighting Cancer, September 19, 2012, New Jersey Jewish Times

Jewish Men in the Middle of PSA Controversy, August 13, 2012, The Jewish Daily Forward

Delays Plague Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research, August 14, 2012, The Jewish Daily Forward

Blessing in Disguise, May 10, 2012, The Jerusalem Post

Risky Surgical Business, May 8, 2012, The Jewish Week

Disclaimer: Health links are made available for educational purposes only. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice. All health information should be discussed with your health care provider. Please read our full disclaimer for more information.

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