What is BRCA

‘BRCA’ refers to two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that play an important role in supressing tumours. Faults or ‘mutations’ in these two genes are linked to the development of cancer.

If an individual inherits a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation from either of their parents, they are often referred to as a ‘BRCA carrier’ or as ‘BRCA positive’.

Carriers are more likely to develop certain types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and melanoma.

Inheriting a BRCA mutation

BRCA genes are inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. This means that a person who has a mutation in either of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes has a 50% chance of passing on that mutation to each of their children.

Men as well as women can be BRCA positive, so a mutation can be passed from father to child as well as mother to child.

BRCA and Jews

Approximately 1 in 300-400 people in the UK have a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. However, the prevalence of BRCA mutations is significantly higher in those with Jewish ancestry compared to the general population.

1 in 40 people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a mutation in a BRCA gene. There is also evidence showing that individuals of Sephardi ancestry have an elevated risk of being a BRCA mutation carrier compared to the general population.