The BRCA (BReast CAncer Susceptibility Gene) was highlighted in the media when Angelina Jolie revealed she had a prophylactic double mastectomy after testing positive for this gene. Women with the BRCA gene have a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer than the general population. BRCA is responsible for 5-7% of breast cancers and about 10% of ovarian cancers.
Recently, a study found that African-American women with breast cancer are more likely than women in the general population to have genetic mutations linked to their disease, and some of those mutations extend beyond the common BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. In fact, 1 in 5 black women in this study had a BRCA mutation.
This new data can explain why black women have higher rates of breast cancer at young ages, more aggressive forms of breast cancer, and a worse chance of survival. Studies also reveal that African American women are less likely to be referred for genetic counseling even if they meet the criteria.
To better understand genetic breast cancer and your risk, here are the answers to some of the most asked questions: