BRCA1 and BRCA2, short for BReast CAncer 1 and 2, are tumor suppressor genes, or genes which regulate cell growth and are needed to stop cancer from developing. These genes are involved in repairing damage to DNA but have many other functions that are not yet fully understood. When tumor suppressor genes no longer function due to mutations, cancer may develop.
Summary of BRCA1 and BRCA2 facts
- Certain ethnic groups are at increased risk for having BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations; three particular mutations are more common among Ashkenazi Jews.
- Women with mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 are more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer but are not guaranteed to do so.
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are more likely to be found in individuals with a family history of particular cancers.
- Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are more likely to get cancer at a younger age than the general population.
- Men can also have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, which puts them at an increased risk for prostate, breast and some other cancers.
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations can also be passed down through the father, so it is important to consider both sides of the family history.
- The decision to get tested can be very complicated. Talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor if you are interested in testing.