The BRCA Gene: Does Cancer Run in Your Family?

Women with a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing these diseases. Sometimes this strong family history indicates a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, making the odds of developing these cancers even higher. The BRCA gene mutations are passed from parent to child and carry a 50 percent chance of inheritance. Together, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for about 10 percent of breast cancers and 15 percent of ovarian cancers.

What are BRCA1 and BRCA2?

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes are mutated or altered, cells are unable to repair themselves making it more likely for additional genetic changes to occur that can lead to cancer.

Who is at risk for a mutation?

You may have a gene mutation or an increased risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Early onset of cancer in one or more female relatives (premenopausal at time of diagnosis)
  • Family history of male breast cancer
  • Both breast and ovarian cancer in a single relative
  • Family members who develop cancer in both breasts (bilateral breast cancer)
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry

What are the options for high risk patients?

If you believe you are at high risk for breast or ovarian cancer, contact 1-800-ROSWELL. You will be directed to Roswell Park’s High Risk Breast and High Risk Ovarian cancer clinics that offer comprehensive risk assessment, genetic testing, risk-reduction counseling and patient education resources, as well as advanced surveillance, screening and prevention trials.

To learn more about BRCA gene mutations, watch the true story of one woman’s battle with hereditary breast cancer and the discovery of the BRCA link during a special screening of the movie “Decoding Annie Parker” on Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theater. Partial proceeds of ticket sales for the screening will benefit the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at Roswell Park.