Family History Alone May Not Tell the Tale in Jewish Women

Although family history is a risk factor, a new study has shown that it should not be the primary determinant of mutation screening for breast and ovarian cancer.

Women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who tested positive for cancer-causing genetic mutations during random screenings have high rates of breast and ovarian cancer even when they have no family history of the disease, researchers reported Thursday.

The finding calls into question the practice of screening women — particularly women of Ashkenazi descent, as are most Jews in the United States — for these mutations only if they report that many women in their family have had cancer. Some women are tested for mutations only after they develop cancer themselves.

Many of the women identified by the researchers in Israel would never have known they were mutation carriers if not for the screening offered by the study, the researchers said. The study’s authors recommended routine screening of all women of Ashkenazi backgrounds for harmful mutations in the genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

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Source: The New York Times