According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who tested positive for breast cancer 1 and 2, early onset (BRCA1 and BRCA2), have high rates of breast and ovarian cancer despite no family history of the disease.
In the study, researchers first tested more than 8,000 Ashkenazi men 30 years and older without cancer and identified 175 men that carried a BRCA 1 or BRCA2 mutation. Then, researchers tested female relatives of the male carriers and identified 211 with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Of those, approximately 50% had little to no family history of cancer.
Despite having no family history, those women had high rates of cancer. Of the women aged 60 and older, about 60% of BRCA1 carriers and 33% of BRCA2 carriers had developed breast or ovarian cancer. Of those aged 80 and older, 83% of BRCA1 carriers and 76% of BRCA2 carriers had breast or ovarian cancer.
The study suggests that despite little to no family history of breast or ovarian cancer, Ashkenazi Jewish women should be tested for a genetic mutation predisposing them to cancer. Early detection can help patients and clinicians to determine whether risk-reducing options are appropriate.
Women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who tested positive for cancer-causing genetic mutations during random screenings have high rates of breast and ovarian cancer even when they have no family history of the disease, researchers reported Thursday.
The finding calls into question the practice of screening women — particularly women of Ashkenazi descent, as are most Jews in the United States — for these mutations only if they report that many women in their family have had cancer. Some women are tested for mutations only after they develop cancer themselves.