Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage
In the U.S., breast cancer risk is slightly higher among Jewish women than among other women .
This is likely due to BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations, which increase the risk of breast cancer. These inherited gene mutations are more common in Jewish women of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) than in other women.
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) are the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer risk.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (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 gene mutations are rare in the general population. In the U.S., about 1 in 400 people in the general population have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation .
However, the proportion of people who have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation 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 gene mutation .
BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and breast cancer risk
Women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of breast cancer [32-38].
By age 70, the chance of developing breast cancer is [3,32,34-37]:
- 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
This means, by age 70:
- In a group of 100 women with a BRCA1/2 gene mutation, 45-65 will get breast cancer
- In a group of 100 women without a BRCA1/2 gene mutation, about 7 will get breast cancer
These numbers are averages. The risk for any one woman with a BRCA1/2 gene mutation may fall outside this range.
A family history of breast cancer and certain other cancers is also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer .
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.
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 family members, doctor or genetic counselor.|
Support for people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 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 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations and those with BRCA1/2-related cancer.
For example, FORCE is an organization that provides online and telephone support and a resource guide for individuals and caregivers affected by hereditary breast, ovarian and other cancers.
Sharsheret offers online support for Jewish women with hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES