Hereditary Cancer

Hereditary Cancer2022-05-30T13:19:05+00:00

Get information about hereditary cancers, assess your risk, find resources, and more

Hereditary cancer occurs when inherited genetic changes, called mutations or disease-causing variants, cause a problem with cell growth. Everyone has about 6-8 genetic changes and, much of the time, these are harmless. However, certain mutations increase risk of cancer or other genetic disorders. Furthermore, some mutations are particularly common among people who share the same ethnicity.

Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are about 10 times more likely than the general population to have a BRCA gene mutation, which increases the risk of breast cancer in both women and men, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Overall, about 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carries a BRCA mutation.

In addition, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are not the only ones associated with breast cancer risk. Research has identified mutations in other genes related to breast cancer, including ATM, CHEK2, and PALB2. There are also hereditary cancer syndromes related to other types of cancer.

Cancers in people with hereditary risk tend to develop at younger ages compared to cancers in the general population. But it’s important to note that a person who inherits a genetic change associated with increased cancer risk will not necessarily develop cancer.

People at increased risk for developing cancer have a variety of risk-reducing options. Genetic counseling can help you determine the most appropriate testing and management options for you.

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BRCA mutations & the Jewish community

BRCA mutations are about 10 times more common in the Jewish than the general populations. Fortunately, there are ways to identify and reduce risk.

Assess your hereditary cancer risk

Families affected by a hereditary cancer syndrome may have certain patterns of cancer diagnoses among relatives. Learn your family medical history and talk to a genetic counselor.

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Hereditary cancer FAQs

Get answers to commonly asked questions about hereditary cancers, cancer genetic counseling and testing, and more.

Personal Stories

Zach’s Story (Video)

Zach’s sister, Alexa, was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman. Her diagnosis spurred the family to examine their health history and ultimately led to the discovery of a BRCA mutation that had been passed down from Zach’s grandfather. Watch Zach's story.

Alyssa’s Story (Video)

Alyssa knew about her family history of cancer and her personal risk of a BRCA mutation. After several years of screenings and consideration, she decided to undergo a risk-reducing operation before having children. Watch Alyssa's story.

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