Who Should Test?

Who should consider BRCA gene testing? 

Anyone with at least 1 Jewish grandparent, of any sub-type of Jewish origin, is considered at increased risk of having a BRCA gene mutation and should therefore consider testing.  This includes both men and women. 

Testing is available from the age of 18 but of course testing at this age will not be appropriate for everyone.   

Careful consideration needs to be made by anyone thinking about testing. Time needs to be taken to ensure there is a full understanding of what a positive result will mean and to consider if time is right – from several perspectives. You can read much more about what to consider before testing here. 

Have the recommendations recently changed?

Yes. There has been a significant, evidence-based shift in who is now recommended to undergo BRCA gene testing. Until recently only Ashkenazi Jewish individuals with a strong history in their family of the BRCA related cancers or a personal breast or ovarian cancer diagnosis were eligible for testing. 

However it is now considered medical best practice, both nationally and internationally, to offer BRCA gene testing to ANYONE of Jewish origin, irrespective of their personal or family history of cancer

Why did this change in recommendation come about?  

The reason for this change is a recent study called The Genetic Cancer Prediction through Population Screening Study (GCaPPS) led by Professor Ranjit Manchanda and funded by The Eve Appeal.

It showed that offering BRCA testing to just Jewish people with a strong family history of the BRCA-associated cancer actually misses around 60% of individuals who have the mutation. Excluding them from testing means these individuals will not be identified and are not able to take the necessary steps to manage their increased cancer risk.  

GCaPPS also showed that a ‘population-based approach’, in which BRCA gene testing is offered to Jewish people irrespective of their family history of the BRCA-associated cancers, is preferable because:  

  • It detects more individuals with BRCA gene mutations 
  • It does not have an adverse effect on the quality of life or psychological state of those testing as compared to conventional family history-based testing 
  • Had high satisfaction and acceptability across all Jewish denominations  
  • It saves money for the NHS  

BRCA testing is recommended for men too? 

Yes. BRCA testing is recommended and important for men for the following 6 reasons:  

  1. Men have BRCA genes 
  2. Men can have mutations in either of their BRCA genes  
  3. Men BRCA gene mutations have an increased risk for certain cancer types 
  4. Men with BRCA gene mutations can access risk management advice on the NHS- if they are identified through BRCA gene testing 
  5. Men can pass on their mutations to both sons and daughters 
  6. Men can take steps to avoid passing on BRCA mutations to future children  

More information about men and BRCA can be found here.  

Trying to make a decision about testing?  

Click here to read more about what you should consider before testing, and for links to other helpful resources.