Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage
In the U.S., breast cancer risk is slightly higher among Jewish women than among other women .
This increased risk is likely due to the high prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations in Jewish women of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews).
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) are the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer risk.
BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations can be passed to you from either parent. They can affect the risk of cancers in both women and men.
BRCA1/2 mutations are rare in the general population. In the U.S., about 1 in 400 people in the general population have a BRCA1/2 mutation .
However, prevalence varies by ethnic group. Among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women, about 1 in 40 have a BRCA1/2 mutation .
About 8-10 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. have a BRCA1/2 mutation .
BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk
Women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of breast cancer [28-32].
By age 70, the chance of developing breast cancer is [3,28,30-34,155,189]:
- 55-65 percent for women who have a BRCA1 gene mutation
- 45-55 percent for women who have a BRCA2 gene mutation
- 7 percent for women in the general population. (Lifetime risk of breast cancer is 12 percent.)
This means, by age 70:
- In a group of 100 women with a BRCA1/2 mutation, 45-65 will get breast cancer
- In a group of 100 women without a BRCA1/2 mutation, about 7 will get breast cancer
These numbers are averages, so the risk for any one woman with a BRCA1/2 gene mutation may fall outside this range.
Learn more about inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk in women.
Learn about testing for inherited gene mutations.
Talking about family health history with your provider
It’s important to discuss your family history of breast cancer and other health conditions with your health care provider. This information helps your health care provider understand your risk of breast cancer.
Susan G. Komen®‘s My Family Health History Tool
My Family Health History tool is a web-based tool that makes it easy for you to record and organize your family health history. It can help you gather information that’s useful as you talk with your doctor or genetic counselor.
Support for people with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations
Our Support section offers a list of resources to help find local and online support groups for people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and those with BRCA1/2-related cancer.
For example, FORCE is an organization that offers online support for people at higher risk of breast, ovarian or other cancers related to family history or inherited gene mutations.
Sharsheret offers online support for Jewish women with hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES