The Facts About BRCA—What You Should Know

You may have heard of the BRCA gene before, but you should know how its role could impact you.

BRCA basics

Everyone is born with BRCA genes. BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. Normally, BRCA genes work to suppress tumors from growing. But when these genes are mutated, they are no longer able to help suppress tumors, leading to an increased risk of cancer.

Mutations in the BRCA gene are associated with breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 39% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70.


Cancer risk factors

There are many factors that can impact your risk of developing cancer. These factors include the genes that you’re born with, your age, your weight, and your diet. Although risk factors are not always the cause of cancer, they do increase your chances of developing cancer during your lifetime.

Genes that you inherit from your parents can be mutated, which changes how they would normally function. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are responsible for suppressing tumor growth. When these genes are mutated, their normal function may be altered. This means that tumors are more likely to grow, leading to an increased risk of cancer.

Having a BRCA mutation is a risk factor for ovarian cancer and other types of cancers.

Gene mutations matter

If you have a BRCA mutation, you’re at a higher risk of developing cancer. With this knowledge, you may want to consider scheduling regular cancer screenings. And if you already have cancer, knowing that you have a BRCA mutation can help determine whether or not you can receive treatments specifically for people with BRCA mutations. Because these mutations can be hereditary, knowing your BRCA status can inform you of your family’s potential cancer risk.

The only way to know if you have a BRCA mutation is to get tested.