Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.
Mutations in BRCA1/2 and other genes associated with increased cancer risk can occur in any population; mutations have been found in people of all ethnic backgrounds. People of certain ethnicity are more likely to carry BRCA mutations, but any family can have a mutation.
Experts estimate that, in the general population, one in every 300 to 500 people harbors a BRCA mutation. Mutations are most common in people of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent. About one in every 40 people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (2.5% of this population) carries a BRCA mutation. Members of certain other ethnic groups may also be more likely than those in the general population to carry a BRCA mutation. Various factors—such as the number of people with cancer, their relationship to each other, age of onset of cancer, and types of cancer—affect the likelihood of a BRCA mutation within a family. A specialist in cancer genetics can look at your heritage and family history, and help determine the likelihood that your family has a BRCA mutation.
Research on the prevalence of other gene mutations associated with increased cancer risk is ongoing. A genetics expert can look at your personal and family history of cancer and help you decide what type of genetic testing is right for you.