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Do You Speak BRCA?

  • Live in the knowSM
  • BRCA variants affect women and men.
  • Specific BRCA variants are more common in certain populations.
  • People without a BRCA variant are still at risk for cancer.

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

Have a personal or family history of cancer? Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if comprehensive genetic testing is appropriate.

BRCA Education

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 Education

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 genetic terms you may want to know. Here are five of the most important:

BRCA Gene Education

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 (emphasis on the word prevent) it by repairing DNA breaks that can lead to cancer. This is why we refer to them as tumor suppressor genes (emphasis on the words 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 (emphasis on the words 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.

BRCA Education

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 (emphasis on the words nobody had). Here are a few of the key milestones.

About the Report

Introducing 23andMe’s Direct-To-Consumer BRCA Test

23andMe offers a genetic test for three variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to its Health plus Ancestry Service customers. This genetic 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.

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 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 the BRCA report through 23andMe’s Health plus Ancestry Service.

About the Report

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 Genetic Health Risk report focuses on only three out of the more than 1,000 risk variants 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.

About the Report

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

  • About 1 in 40 people of Ashkenazi descent has one of the three variants included in our report.
  • Ashkenazi Jews trace their roots to Jewish people who settled in Central and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages.
  • Whereas 1 in 400 in the general population has a BRCA variant…
  • ...though usually not one of the three variants in our report.
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.*Considerations and Limitations for the Genetic Health Risk Report for BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants)

Watch Hilary’s story

Watch Hilary’s story

Nobody in Hilary’s family had a history of breast or ovarian cancer. She’s grateful for 23andMe because she’s confident no doctor would have asked her to consider genetic testing.

Watch Jill’s story

Watch Jill’s story

Jill’s 23andMe test results allowed her to take information within her genetic code and keep herself healthy.

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.

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 about 0.1% of men in the general population.2

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 meets criteria for analytical, clinical and scientific validity. As with our other reports, each variant we report demonstrated greater than 99 percent concordance as compared to Sanger sequencing, which is considered the gold standard for DNA analysis. It also showed greater than 99 percent reproducibility and repeatability.

Learn more.
  • Got more questions?
  • Get more answers.
  • No verb conjugations.
  • Just like we promised.

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.

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Learn more about our Health plus Ancestry Service.