The breast cancer gene - Do you have it?


Doctors estimated Angelina Jolie had an 87 per cent chance of getting breast cancer because she has a “faulty” BRCA1 gene. So the actress, who lost her mother to ovarian cancer, elected to have a double mastectomy to minimise her risk.

Now, she has only a five per cent chance of ever developing breast cancer.

If they have an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, their chances of developing the disease increase to up to 80 per cent.

But what are the BRCA genes? Should you be worried?

Everyone carries the BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two) genes. They’re responsible for repairing cell damage and keeping breast cells growing normally. It’s only when there’s an abnormality or mutation in these genes, which causes them not to work properly, that a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer could increase. These mutations or abnormalities are generally passed on from one generation to the next. But most people who develop breast cancer didn’t inherit an abnormal breast cancer gene and have no family history of the disease.

According to, you’re substantially more likely to have an abnormal breast cancer gene if:

·         Your mother, or blood relatives (grandmothers, sisters, aunts) on either your mother or father's side of the family have had breast cancer diagnosed before age 50.

·         There are both breast and ovarian cancer in your family, particularly in a single individual.

·         There are other gland-related cancers in your family such as pancreatic, colon, and thyroid cancers.

·         Women in your family have had cancer in both breasts.

·         You’re of Ashkenazi Jewish (Eastern European) heritage.

·         You’re African-American and have been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 or younger.

·         A man in your family has had breast cancer

For more information, visit

-Kirstin Buick


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