BRCA mutations are perhaps best known for their link to breast cancer in women, as women with a BRCA mutation have a lifetime risk of breast cancer between 45-87%. Perhaps less well known but equally as important, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations also increase the risk of male breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Females with a BRCA mutation have an 18-46% risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared to less than 2% in the general population. Males with a BRCA mutation have about 1-8% risk of developing male breast cancer, compared to 0.1% in the general population.
Cancers in people with hereditary risk tend to develop at younger ages (often younger than 50) compared to cancers in the general population, although they may develop at any age. Genetic counseling and testing can help individuals be proactive about their risk and learn how to prevent and detect cancer at earlier stages.