Hereditary Breast Cancer and BRCA Genes

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Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

About 5% to 10% of breast and 10% to 15% of ovarian cancers are hereditary. Hereditary cancer means cancer runs in your family, and could be caused by a change in certain genes that you inherited from your mother or father.

Genes act as instructions and contain information to build and maintain cells in the body. Humans inherit one set of genes from their mother and one set of genes from their father.

Genes are made up of DNA. DNA tells the body what traits will be passed on from parents to children, such as blood type, hair color, eye color, and risks of getting certain diseases.

BRCA Genes

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that are important to fighting cancer. They are tumor suppressor genes. When they work normally, these genes help keep breast, ovarian, and other types of cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way.

Sometimes a change or mutation occurs in the BRCA genes that prevent them from working normally. This raises a person’s risk for breast, ovarian and other cancers. Learn more about BRCA gene mutations.

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Learn what BRCA gene mutations are, how common they are, and why they matter.

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Learn about groups that are at increased risk for BRCA gene mutations.

Photo of an Ashkenazi Jewish woman

One in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women has a BRCA gene mutation.

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Learn about groups that are at increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Image of a box with genetic information and a test tube.

The direct-to-consumer genetic test can be taken at home and can tell you about your ancestry and genetic traits, including limited information about your risk for diseases like breast cancer.

Let's Talk: Sharing Info About Your Family Cancer Risk

Having open conversations about your family history of cancer can help you and your family members understand your risk for hereditary cancer and make a plan to manage it.