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This page has been written by : Radhika Nair

What are BRCA 1 and 2?

Many of you might have heard of the BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two). About 5 to 10% of breast cancers are inherited, which means, they are passed on from parent to the child through the molecular blue print, DNA. Abnormalities in key genes which normally protect the cell from turning cancerous are transferred to the child and hence increase their chance of developing cancer.
Two key genes which increase the possibility of developing breast cancer are BrCa 1 and BrCa 2 (as mentioned above). The normal function of these genes is to repair damage in the cell and keep the cells growing normally. But when these genes contain abnormalities that are passed from parent to child, the genes don't function normally and breast cancer risk increases.
While a woman has a 1 in 8 chance ((in the US) of developing breast cancer during her lifetime, if she has the BrCa gene mutation (or abnormality), then this chance goes may up from 30% to 80%! In addition, there is also an increased risk of developing ovarian, colon, pancreatic, and thyroid cancers, as well as melanoma. Based on associated risk factors like having a family history of breast cancer, your oncologist might recommend genetic testing for abnormalities in BrCa genes.