BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. In normal cells, BRCA1 and BRCA2 help ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material (DNA) and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutation of these genes has been linked to the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
The names BRCA1 and BRCA2 stand for breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 and breast cancer susceptibility gene 2, respectively.
According to estimates of lifetime risk, about 12.0 percent of women (120 out of 1,000) in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives compared with about 60 percent of women (600 out of 1,000) who have inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. In other words, a woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation.
Women at increased risk of having a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation often have strong family histories of breast cancer. These patterns include:
- Two first-degree relatives (mother, daughter, or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer, one of whom was diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Three or more first-degree or second-degree (grandmother or aunt) relatives diagnosed with breast cancer regardless of their age at diagnosis
- A combination of first- and second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer and ovarian cancer (one cancer type per person)
- A first-degree relative with cancer diagnosed in both breasts (bilateral breast cancer)
- A combination of two or more first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer regardless of age at diagnosis
- A first- or second-degree relative diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancer regardless of age at diagnosis
- Breast cancer diagnosed in a male relative
For women who have been diagnosed with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations or women without gene mutations and a strong family history, prophylactic or risk-reducing mastectomies are often recommended. This is a unique population of women seeking breast reconstruction before they have developed breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction is provided by a woman’s insurance, as mandated by federal law, anytime a breast is removed either for active cancer or appropriate risk reduction.
The choice to undergo testing to determine the presence of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes is best entertained within the counsel of a genetic counselor with specific experience in the field of breast cancer. At The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, we are fortunate to have relationships with numerous genetic counselors throughout the state of Colorado and would be happy to provide this referral to patients seeking genetic testing.
For more information about genetic screening and other breast cancer risk factors, please contact The Breast Center Park Meadows Surgery online or call 303-706-1100 or complete the form on this page. We are pleased to serve patients from Denver and throughout Colorado from our office in Lone Tree, and we also welcome patients throughout the country.