BRCA1 and BRCA2 Inherited Gene Mutations in Men

Read our blog, Men Get Breast Cancer Too.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) are the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer.

This section provides information on BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations in men. If you or a family member has a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation, you may have questions about what this means for you. Learn more about:

Learn about BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations in women.

Genes and inherited gene mutations

What are genes?

Every cell in your body has genes. Genes contain the blueprints (genetic code) for your body.

For example, genes contain the information that determines the color of your eyes. They also contain information that affects how the cells in your body grow, divide and die.

The information in your genes is passed on (inherited) from your mother and your father. And, you can pass this information on to your children (your daughters and your sons).

What are inherited gene mutations?

Some changes in the genetic code that affect the function of the gene are called mutations. Mutations are rare.

Just as with other information in genes, mutations can be passed on from a parent to a child.

You get half of your genes from your mother and half from your father. So, for example, if your mother has a BRCA1 gene mutation, there’s a 50 percent chance you will also have a BRCA1 mutation.

Inherited gene mutations are also called germline mutations.

Inherited gene mutations and health

Many inherited gene mutations have little or no effect on health (good or bad). Others increase the risk of certain diseases, including breast cancer.

In the U.S., 5-10 percent of breast cancers in women are thought to be due to known inherited gene mutations [4,32]. However, up to 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to BRCA2 inherited gene mutations alone [252].

Learn more about inherited gene mutations.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations

Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Some people have an inherited mutation in one or both of these genes that increases the risk of breast cancer.

BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations can be passed to you from either parent. They increase the risk of cancers in both women and men.

A person who has a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation is sometimes called a BRCA1/2 carrier.

Proportion of people in the U.S. who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

Like other inherited gene mutations, BRCA1/2 mutations are rare in the general population. In the U.S., about 1 in 400 people have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation [32].

The proportion of people who have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation varies by ethnic group. Among Ashkenazi Jewish women and men, about 1 in 40 have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation [32].

BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and cancer risks

Men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of [32-33,35,38,194-196,248-249]:

Men with BRCA1/2 gene mutations may also have an increased risk of other cancers [32]. However, data are limited and these topics are still under study.

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For a summary of research studies on BRCA1/2 mutations and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and male breast cancer

Risk of breast cancer

Men who have a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation, and to a lesser degree, men who have a BRCA1 inherited gene mutation, have an increased risk of breast cancer [32-33,35,38,194-196].

For example, the lifetime risk of breast cancer (up to age 80) is [38,194,250-251]:

  • About 50-80 in 1,000 men with a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation
  • About 12 in 1,000 men with a BRCA1 inherited gene mutation
  • About 1 in 769 men (up to any age) in the general population

While 5-10 percent of breast cancers in women are thought to be due to inherited gene mutations, up to 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to BRCA2 inherited gene mutations alone [252].

This means men who get breast cancer are more likely to have an inherited gene mutation than women who get breast cancer. For this reason, genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) gene mutations is recommended for all men diagnosed with breast cancer [220].

Other inherited gene mutations that may increase the risk of male breast cancer are under study [253-256].

Learn about breast cancer screening in men with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations.

Learn about genetic testing for men with breast cancer.

Risk of a second primary breast cancer

People with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations have an increased risk of a second primary breast cancer in the opposite (contralateral) breast [32,38]. This is a new breast cancer that develops after a first breast cancer.

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For a summary of research studies on BRCA1/2 mutations and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

Risk factors for breast cancer in men with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations

Whether the risk factors for breast cancer in men with a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation are the same as those for men without a BRCA1/2 gene mutation is under study.

Learn about risk factors for breast cancer in men.

Cancer screening for men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

Cancer screening tests are used to find cancer in a person who has no warning signs or symptoms. Screening may help find cancer early, when the chances of survival are highest.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) encourages people who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation to consider clinical trials of cancer screening and imaging.

Breast cancer screening

Men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of breast cancer [32-33,35,38,195-196].

The NCCN recommends men who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation get breast cancer screening.

Starting at 35, men who have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation should [162]:

Men who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation should also be aware of the warning signs of breast cancer.

The NCCN encourages people with a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation to consider clinical trials of cancer screening and imaging.

Learn about treatment for breast cancer in men.

Men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation who have gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is an enlargement of the breast caused by a hormone imbalance in the body. It’s a benign (not cancer) breast condition, but it may increase the risk of breast cancer in men [257-259].

For men with a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation who also have gynecomastia, the NCCN recommends considering getting a mammogram every year, starting 10 years before the earliest known breast cancer in a male family member or at age 50 (whichever age comes first) [38].

Learn more about gynecomastia.

Prostate cancer screening

Men who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of prostate cancer [32,35,196,248-250].

The NCCN recommends, starting at age 40 [38]:

  • Men with a BRCA2 gene mutation have prostate cancer screening
  • Men with a BRCA1 gene mutation consider having prostate cancer screening

Pancreatic cancer screening

Men who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer [32,38,196].

The NCCN does not recommend pancreatic cancer screening for all men who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation [38]. However, the NCCN recommends some men who also have a close family member with pancreatic cancer consider pancreatic cancer screening [38].

Melanoma

Men who have a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) [32,38,250].

The NCCN does not have melanoma screening guidelines for people with a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation. However, it recommends people with a BRCA2 gene mutation limit sun exposure and consider yearly full-body skin exams to check for signs of melanoma [38].

Treatment for BRCA1– and BRCA2-related breast cancers

In general, breast cancers related to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2 ) inherited gene mutation are treated in the same way breast cancers not related to a BRCA1/2 gene mutation are treated.

However, some drug therapies may be more effective in treating BRCA1/2-related breast cancers than other breast cancer [220].

Early breast cancer treatment

The PARP inhibitor olaparib (Lynparza) is used to treat some HER2-negative early breast cancers in people who have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation [220].

Learn more about olaparib in the treatment of early breast cancer.

Learn more about emerging areas in drug therapies for early breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer treatment

The PARP inhibitors olaparib (Lynparza) and talazoparib (Talzenna) are used to treat metastatic breast cancers in some people who have BRCA1/2 gene mutations. These drugs are not used to treat breast cancers in people who don’t have BRCA1/2 gene mutations.

Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs (such as carboplatin and cisplatin) are preferred chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of BRCA1/2-related metastatic breast cancers [220,222].

Learn more about treatments for metastatic breast cancer.

Male breast cancer and genetic testing

Genetic testing gives people the chance to learn if their breast cancer is due to an inherited gene mutation.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends all men diagnosed with breast cancer have genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutations [220].

Your health care provider can recommend a genetic counselor so you can learn more about genetic testing.

Learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing.

Family members of those who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

The NCCN encourages people who have a first-degree relative with a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation, but have not been tested themselves, to consider genetic testing and talk with their health care providers about breast cancer screening [38,162]. First degree relatives include your mother, father, sisters, brothers and children.

If you are considering testing for a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation, discuss the risks and benefits with a genetic counselor or a trained provider, such as a doctor or nurse.

Men found to have a BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutation should get screening for breast cancer and screening for other cancers.

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.

Learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing.

Clinical trials for men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

Men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutation are encouraged to join a clinical trial looking at new cancer screening methods or more frequent cancer screening for men at higher risk of breast cancer [38,162].

There are also clinical trials for breast cancer treatment and other areas of breast cancer care.

Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline

If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email clinicaltrialinfo@komen.org.

Se habla español.

BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service to help you find clinical trials that fit your health needs, including clinical trials on breast cancer screening for people with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations.

Learn more about clinical trials.

Support

Men at higher risk of breast cancer

If you’re at higher risk of cancer due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) inherited gene mutation, it may be helpful to connect with other men at higher risk.

Some support groups are tailored to people with BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations. For example, the organization FORCE provides online and telephone support for men with inherited gene mutations related to breast cancer, and for individuals and caregivers affected by hereditary breast, prostate and other cancers.

Men with breast cancer

You may feel isolated after a breast cancer diagnosis. Some organizations offer online support groups and other support resources for men with breast cancer. To learn more, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877-465-6366 or email helpline@komen.org. Se habla español.

Other organizations including the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network also offer online support groups and other support resources for men with breast cancer.

In-person support groups for breast cancer may only have female members, so joining a support group for men with any type of cancer may be more helpful.

Our Support section offers a list of resources to help find local and online support groups.

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. Se habla español.
  • 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.
  • Our Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too brochure has information on risk, diagnosis, treatment and support.
  • Our Mission Moment: Breast Cancer in Men webinar has information from oncologists as well as men with breast cancer.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 04/06/22