do you

Learn more about the 23andMe
BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants)
report here.


Let's begin at the very beginning.

BRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene. You can pronounce it "brah-kuh" or you can say "B" "R" "C" "A". When we talk about BRCA1 and BRCA2, we are speaking the language of human genetics. We are speaking BRCA.

You can, too.



BRCA Basics

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that have been found to impact a person's chances of developing certain cancers, including breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

What It Means:

The genes are called BRCA because the link between these genes and breast cancer was discovered first. The genes themselves do not cause cancer. They actually help prevent it by repairing DNA breaks that can lead to cancer. This is why we refer to them as tumor suppressor genes.

Sometimes, changes in the BRCA genes occur that prevent them from functioning properly. These changes are called genetic variants or mutations. Variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be passed down through families, increasing the risk of developing certain cancers. This is what was referenced in our glossary as hereditary risk.

Why It Matters:

Knowledge is empowerment. Many people with a BRCA variant, both women and men, are unaware of their risk and what they can do about it. While it is true that having certain BRCA variants can increase a person's risk of developing cancer, most cases of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers aren't caused by inherited BRCA variants. And not every individual who inherits a BRCA variant will develop cancer.



The BRCA Story:
Three Decades of
Discovery. 1

There's a reason you may have never heard of BRCA1 and BRCA2. Prior to their identification by researchers nearly 30 years ago, nobody had. Here are a few of the key milestones.


The First and Only FDA-Authorized,
Direct-To-Consumer BRCA Test*

23andMe offers a genetic test for three variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to its Health + Ancestry Service customers. This test detects three selected variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes – BRCA1 185delAG; BRCA1 5382insC; and BRCA2 6174delT – that are among the most studied and best understood. These three variants are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. (They can be found in people of other ethnicities, though this is rare.) If you have one of these three variants, you have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.


The BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) Genetic Health Risk report is not a comprehensive cancer screening test.

More than 1,000 variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are known to increase cancer risk.
Our report focuses on three that are among the most studied and best understood. These three variants are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and are much less common in people of other ethnicities.


It's a small percentage, but for some people it's a big deal. Specific BRCA variants are more common in certain populations.


Most cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer are not caused by inherited BRCA variants.

Other factors also play
an important role.

variants factor

Known variants in other genes
that affect cancer risk

genetics factor

Unknown genetic factors
that may affect cancer risk

variants factor

Other factors such as lifestyle,
environment and family history

The experiences of our customers are a true testament to the value of understanding your genetics.*

Helpful BRCA Resources
(We have them.)

At 23andMe, we are committed to helping you understand what a BRCA result means and describing important limitations of the report. There are also many trusted advocacy organizations who share our commitment to the BRCA community and provide a wide array of educational and support services. We encourage you to reach out to these organizations to deepen your knowledge and empower yourself.

Still have questions?
You're not the only one.

Cancer is a complex disease: The experts still have questions. Here are just a few of the questions "non-experts" have been asking about 23andMe's BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) Genetic Health Risk report. We encourage you to talk with a healthcare professional, such as a genetic counselor, to get the answers you need.


You did it.

If you have read this far, you have achieved a basic level of BRCA proficiency. We knew you could do it! The question is, what will you do with it? Talk to your healthcare provider? Share what you've learned with a friend or family member? We encourage you to do both.

Live in the know. SM
Learn more about our Health + Ancestry Service.

1 1990:   1994:   1996:   2013:

*The 23andMe PGS test uses qualitative genotyping to detect select clinically relevant variants in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting genetic health risks, including the 23andMe PGS Genetic Health Risk Report for BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants). Your ethnicity may affect the relevance of each report and how your genetic health risk results are interpreted. The test is not intended to diagnose any disease and does not describe a person's overall risk of developing any type of cancer. It is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health, or to be used to make medical decisions, including whether or not you should take a medication, how much of a medication you should take, or determine any treatments. Warnings & Limitations: The 23andMe PGS Genetic Health RIsk Report for BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) is indicated for reporting of the 185delAG and 5382insC variants in the BRCA1 gene and the 6174delT variant in the BRCA2 gene. The report describes if a woman is at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, and if a man is at increased risk of developing breast cancer or may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer. The three variants included in this report are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and do not represent the majority of BRCA1/BRCA2 variants in the general population. This report does not include variants in other genes linked to hereditary cancers and the absence of variants included in this report does not rule out the presence of other genetic variants that may impact cancer risk. The PGS test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings or appropriate follow-up. Results should be confirmed in a clinical setting before taking any medical action.