Mutations to either breast cancer gene — BRCA1 or BRCA2 — significantly increase your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer when compared with the cancer risk of a woman without a BRCA gene mutation. Men with inherited BRCA gene mutations also face an increased risk of breast cancer. BRCA mutations may increase the risk of other types of cancer in women and men as well.

You might be at increased risk of having a BRCA gene mutation — and a candidate for BRCA gene testing — if you have:

  • A personal history of breast cancer diagnosed at a young age (premenopausal), breast cancer affecting both breasts (bilateral breast cancer), or both breast and ovarian cancers
  • A personal history of ovarian cancer and a close relative with ovarian cancer or premenopausal breast cancer or both
  • A history of breast cancer at a young age in two or more close relatives, such as your parents, siblings and children
  • A male relative with breast cancer
  • A family member who has both breast and ovarian cancers
  • A family member with bilateral breast cancer
  • Two or more relatives with ovarian cancer
  • A relative with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry, with a close relative who has breast or ovarian cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and a personal history of ovarian cancer

Who should consider BRCA gene testing?

Ideally, in a family that might carry a BRCA mutation, a family member who has breast or ovarian cancer will have the BRCA gene test first. If this individual agrees to genetic testing and doesn't carry the BRCA gene mutation, then other family members won't benefit from taking the test.

Aug. 22, 2013