BRCA genes and cancer: What you need to know
If you have a family or personal history of cancer, understanding your genes could help you get to know your health better. Genes are like an instruction manual for the body; they provide the body with information about how to grow and develop properly. Every person is born with cancer genes. The purpose of these genes is to protect the body from developing cancer.
Some people are born with a change, or mutation, in one of their cancer genes, which causes the gene to be less effective at protecting the body from cancer. Having one of these genetic mutations does not mean that someone will develop cancer; however, it does place people at a higher risk to develop the disease.
Two common genes linked to a greater risk of cancer are the breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2 genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. People who have a mutation in a BRCA gene are at a higher risk to develop specific cancers, including for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma. Fortunately, there are medical management and screening recommendations available for people who have a gene mutation to reduce these cancer risks.