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.
Want to learn to speak BRCA?
Here are some terms to know.
Speaking BRCA won't require you to master any verb conjugations, but there are several important terms you may want to know. Here are five of the most important:
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
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.
ABOUT THE REPORT
Let's be clear.
(Let's be frank, too.)
23andMe's BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) Genetic Health Risk report is many things – direct-to-consumer, FDA-authorized – but there are many things it isn't. Why emphasize what we aren't? Because here's what we are – committed to transparency. We are absolutely dedicated to guiding you through the landscape of BRCA, regardless of whether or not you choose to access this report through 23andMe's Health + Ancestry Service. For customers who choose to view their results, we will provide you with information about important considerations regarding how to read and use the report.
ABOUT THE REPORT
The BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) Genetic Health Risk report is not a comprehensive cancer screening test.
ABOUT THE REPORT
It's a small percentage, but for some people it's a big deal. Specific BRCA variants are more common in certain populations.
ABOUT THE REPORT
Most cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer are not caused by inherited BRCA variants.
Other factors also play
an important role.
Known variants in other genes
that affect cancer risk
Unknown genetic factors
that may affect cancer risk
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.
The three genetic variants included in the report are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. This means it's more likely for people with this ancestry to have one of these variants. These variants are much less common in people of other ethnicities. That said, it's also still possible to have one of these variants even if you aren't of Ashkenazi descent.
Yes. Men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 variant have an increased risk of developing male breast cancer, and may also have a higher risk for prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma. For example, studies suggest that 7-8% of men with a BRCA2 variant, and 1-2% of men with a BRCA1 variant, develop male breast cancer during their lifetime, compared to 0.12% of men in the general population (PMIDs 20587410 (Evans 2010) and 18042939 (Tai 2007).
No. Many people will receive a test report indicating that no genetic variants were detected. This result does not give you much new information about your cancer risk. You could still have a variant not included in this test. In addition, most cases of cancer are not caused by inherited variants, so other factors also influence cancer risk, including lifestyle, environment and family history. This test does not diagnose cancer or any other health condition and is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings.
Our BRCA test for the three variants we detect meets FDA requirements for analytical, clinical and scientific validity. As with our other FDA-reviewed reports, each variant we report demonstrated greater than 99 percent agreement with an accepted comparison method. It also showed greater than 99 percent reproducibility and repeatability. Keep in mind that because this is an at-home test it is important to confirm results in a clinical setting before taking any medical action. Learn more.
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: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4191015/ 1994: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4191015/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2360226/ 1996: https://www.nature.com/articles/gim200320 2013: http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i6357
*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.