Angelina Jolie. (Photo Credits: Twitter)
The medical community was stunned by what came to be termed as the Angelina Jolie Effect. In 2013, the Hollywood actress announced that she had both her breasts removed to avoid breast cancer, of which she had an 80 percent risk. She did so to focus attention on the BRCA (BReast Cancer) gene and to encourage more women to undergo tests. Her efforts paid off. Within 15 days of Jolie’s announcement, there was a 64 percent rise in BRCA test. And a study by Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of New South Wales in Australia showed that there was a spike in the number or preventive mastectomies three months after Jolie made her announcement. The phenomenon came to be known as the Angelina Jolie Effect, which made women sit up and analyse their breast cancer risk. During the ongoing Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019, let’s understand what is BRCA and whether you carry the risk.
What is BRCA?
BRCA stands for BReast Cancer gene. There are two different types – BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes generally impact a person’s chances of developing breast cancer. The genes themselves prevent cancer. They work by repairing breaks in the DNA that can lead to cancer. Hence, they are called tumour suppressor genes. Breast Cancer Early Detection & Diagnosis: Easy Methods to Identify the Disease.
A small percentage of people are at risk of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation, which occurs when the gene malfunctions. This leaves them at greater risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
What is the Difference Between BRCA1 and BRCA2?
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are located on different chromosomes. The former is found on chromosome 17 and the latter on chromosome 13. Although the two are involved in preventing tumours, BRCA1 mutation increases the risk of cancer of breasts, ovaries, pancreatic, cervix, uterus and colon. And BRCA2 is linked to an increase in breast, ovarian, bile duct, pancreatic and gallbladder cancer. It also increases melanoma risks. Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019: Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer? Here’s the Truth.
Who Is At Risk of BRCA Mutations?
Anyone who has the risk of BRCA mutation should regularly test themselves for cancers and consider preventive procedures. These signs point towards BRCA mutation risk.
• If any family member has had ovarian and breast cancer.
• If several relatives on either side have had breast or ovarian cancer.
• If relatives have been diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer at a young age.
• If a male member has had breast cancer.
• If a first-degree relative – parents, siblings or children – has had breast or ovarian cancer at a young age.
• If you belong to Ashkenazi (Central-Eastern European) Jewish ethnic group.
What if You Are BRCA Positive?
If you are tested positive for BRCA gene mutation, you will naturally be more at risk of certain cancers. But many who carry the gene mutation never develop breast cancer in their lifetime. But despite being tested positive, one can stay one step ahead of cancer through regular testing and early diagnosis. Preventive surgeries or mastectomies – where one or both breasts are surgically removed – are an option.