The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage

In the U.S., breast cancer risk is slightly higher among Jewish women than among other women [27].

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 [28]. 

However, prevalence varies by ethnic group. Among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women, about 1 in 40 have a BRCA1/2 mutation [28].

About 8-10 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. have a BRCA1/2 mutation [28].

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 about BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk in men.

Learn more about inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk in women.

Learn about testing for inherited gene mutations.

Learn about breast cancer screening and risk-lowering options for women at higher risk.

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

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.
  • Our online and telephone support groups provide a safe place for all to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more about upcoming group opportunities, call our helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education and some fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.  
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

 Updated 02/23/21

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