All Ashkenazi Women Should Be Screened For Breast Cancer Genes, Panel Says

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Ashkenazi women should be screened for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes linked to breast cancer — that’s the recommendation of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, shared in an Aug. 20 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine.

One in 40 Ashkenazi Jews (i.e. Jews of Central or Eastern European descent) have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, compared with one in 300 people in the general population, according to a number of studies. According to the task force, primary care doctors should assess women’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation risks if their ancestry is prone to BRCA mutations, such as Ashkenazi women, and if they previously were treated for breast or ovarian cancer. Detection of these mutations can significantly alter medical management, and implementation of “early detection or risk reduction strategies” can improve outcomes, the authors of the editorial noted.


They also found “researchers are actively reporting higher BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation frequencies across diverse populations than previously realized,” and called for an increase in the number of cancer-specific genetic counselors in the United States.

The editorial was coauthored by Dr. Susan Domchek, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Mark Robson, chief of Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. JT

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