Cancer Risk Genes

Topic: Cancer Risk Genes: Everything You Need to Know About BRCA1 and BRCA2

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that help prevent tumors from growing.

If you inherit a change, or mutation, in these genes, they stop doing their jobs, and cancer can develop.

In the United States, about 1 in every 400 people has a BRCA gene mutation. Both women and men can be affected.

Most individuals acquire just one of these mutated genes, but some people can have both a BRCA1 and a BRCA2 alteration.

If You Carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation, What Cancers Are You at Risk For?
The BRCA genes are most often associated with breast cancer. In fact, BRCA1 is short for “breast cancer gene one,” and BRCA2 for “breast cancer gene two.”

Research shows that about 72 percent of women who inherit a defective BRCA1 gene and about 69 percent who have a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 80. To put that in perspective, women in the general population have about a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives.

The risk of developing ovarian cancer is also high for women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene alteration. About 44 percent of women with a BRCA1 mutation and about 17 percent of those with a BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 80. Only about 1.3 percent of women in the general population are likely to have ovarian cancer during their lives.

In addition to breast and ovarian cancer, having a BRCA gene mutation can increase a woman’s risk of developing:

Cervical cancer
Uterine cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Colon cancer
Stomach cancer
Gallbladder or bile duct cancer
Melanoma

Men with a BRCA mutation may be more likely to have:

Breast cancer
Testicular cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Prostate cancer

How Do BRCA1 and BRCA2 Increase Your Risk for Cancer?

BRCA1 and BRCA2 normally produce a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor. This means it helps prevent cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled manner.

These genes also interact with other proteins in the body and are involved in helping cells repair damaged DNA.

Topic Discussed: Cancer Risk Genes: Everything You Need to Know About BRCA1 and BRCA2

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