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Few Men Seeking BRCA Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is a risk for men too

By Working Nurse
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Thanks to Angelina Jolie, many people know that a BRCA gene mutation significantly increases women’s chances of developing breast cancer. However, this inherited mutation also increases cancer risks for men, who are much less likely to be screened for it.

Genetic Mutations

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce tumor-suppressing proteins. Genetic tests can now detect mutations in these genes that increase your risk of developing breast and other cancers. It was such a test that, five years ago, led Angelina Jolie to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. While Jolie’s decision boosted awareness of the cancer risk the BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations pose for women, men with these mutated genes also have an elevated risk of certain cancers.

Men at Risk

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations increase the risk of breast cancer (and melanoma, pancreatic and stomach cancers) in men as well as women, but the biggest threat for men is an increased risk of prostate cancer. Some studies suggest that the lifetime prostate cancer risk for men with BRCA mutations may be as high as 25 percent, much greater than average. Men and women with a BRCA mutation also have a 50–50 chance of passing on the mutated gene — and its cancer risks — to their children.

Not a “Feminine Issue”

Although men and women have about the same chances of inheriting a mutated BRCA gene, a study in the June issue of JAMA Oncology found that women are 2.7 times as likely as men to be screened for this genetic risk factor.  Screening isn’t appropriate for everyone, but for patients with a family history of ovarian, prostate or early breast cancer, or who have a close relative with a BRCA mutation, these genetic tests can aid prevention and early detection efforts.

“Previous studies have shown that men don’t necessarily understand the importance of a breast cancer gene mutation — that it is more of a ‘feminine’ issue — but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” says lead author Kimberly Childers, M.S., LCGC. “We hope this study will spur broad national educational efforts.” You can learn more about BRCA mutations at www.cancer.gov.  

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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