What other cancers have been linked to mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2?

Harmful BRCA1 mutations may increase a woman’s risk of developing fallopian tube cancer and peritoneal cancer.7,8 Men with BRCA2 mutations, and to a lesser extent BRCA1 mutations, are also at increased risk of breast cancer.9 Men with harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations have a higher risk of prostate cancer.10 Men and women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may be at increased risk of pancreatic cancer.10

Do inherited mutations in other genes increase the risk of breast and/or ovarian tumors?

Yes. Mutations in a number of other genes have been associated with increased risks of breast and/or ovarian cancers.2,12 These other genes include several that are associated with inherited disorders, such as Lynch syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, that increase the risk of many cancer types. 

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However, in nearly half of families with multiple cases of breast cancer and in up to 90 percent of families with both breast and ovarian cancer, their disease is caused by harmful mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Are mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 more common in certain racial/ethnic populations than others?

Yes. People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher prevalence of harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations than people in the general population. Other ethnic and geographic populations around the world, such as the Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic peoples, also have higher prevalences of specific harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

In addition, limited data indicate that the prevalence of specific harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations may vary among individual racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and non-Hispanic whites.13,14

Are genetic tests available to detect BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?

Yes. Several different tests are available, including tests that look for a known mutation in one of the genes (i.e., a mutation that has already been identified in another family member) and tests that check for all possible mutations in both genes. DNA (from a blood or saliva sample) is needed for mutation testing. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. It usually takes about a month to get the test results.