Study Offers Free Screening for Cancer and BRCA Mutations for Ashkenazi Jewish Community

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According to a story from Jewish Community Voice, the BRCA Founder Outreach Study, which is a national, cancer-focused research study, is offering free screenings for people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. At this juncture, 269 people from the Philadelphia area have taken made use of the opportunity, which has resulted in a total of seven positive results for BRCA mutations. Knowledge of these mutations can be essential in preventing ovarian, prostate, and breast cancer.

BRCA Mutations

Mutations of the BRCA gene are directly linked to a dramatically increased likelihood of ovarian cancer and breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. These mutations are more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population in comparison to the population as a whole. The study is a proof of concept project that is pioneering a new technique of personalized genetic testing, as well as genetic counseling and educational services for targeted populations.

According to Dr. Susan Domchek, who is involved in the study, the goal is to measure the effectiveness of different testing models and approaches in order to determine which one is the best.

What’s the Risk?

Ultimately, the study hopes to involve around 4,000 participants from a variety of metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, Boston, and New York. Discovery of a BRCA mutation is often grounds for preventative action to decrease the risk of developing cancer. A woman with BRCA mutations has an 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer and a 45 percent chance of ovarian cancer. Carriers of the mutation also have a 50 percent chance of passing down the mutation to a child.

Some of the patients that tested positive for BRCA mutations were aware of their family history of the mutation; however, for others, it was a complete surprise. If someone tests positive for BRCA mutations, it is recommended that their family members get tested as well.

Jewish organizations in the Philadelphia area, such as the Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Service are also encouraging the community to get the free test. For Andy Cohen, who is vice president of the group, the issue at hand is very personal, as both his dad and sister were both killed by cancers that had been linked to the BRCA mutation.

To learn more about this research initiative, click here.


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