Researchers Explains How the BRCA Gene Increases Breast Cancer Risk

There are several genes that can increase the risk of breast cancer and the most common ones are BRCA mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Although, the genes don’t actually cause breast cancer, however they can help suppress tumors and repair DNA. In some people, the genes start to mutate which can result to breast cancer.

According to statistics, around 0.25% of the population has mutated BRCA genes which make them more likely to develop breast cancer. Meanwhile, women with specific genetic mutations possess a greater risk of developing the disease according to research. Also, women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation who have a successful treatment for cancer have a higher risk of recurrence. In most cases, diseases related to a BRCA1 variation have a higher possibility of being triple-negative breast cancer, which is mostly more challenging to treat. Truly, most cancers can be treated, even for women with mutations of the BCRA gene. Since it possess such a high risk, however, women who have a family history of breast cancer should go for genetic test to confirm if they have.

Here is how the BRCA gene increases breast cancer risk:

We firstly need to talk about what BRCA genes do for the body. In a general concept, genes synthesize from DNA molecules that stay in each cell of the body. They produce codes for the proteins the body makes. Therefore, BRCA genes assist to suppress tumors, and each cell carries two copies of each BRCA gene – one from each parent. If they are functioning normally, they will help fight against tumors such as breast cancer. So when a mutation happens, it will increase the risk of developing breast cancer as well as other types of cancer such as ovarian cancer. Mutations usually occur when there is an error in genetics.

Breast cancer risk

There is a great link of BRCA mutations to breast cancer but not all hereditary breast cancers happen due to BRCA mutations. In overall, BRCA make up 20% to 25% of hereditary breast cancers and 5% to 10% of other breast cancers. On average, the risk of developing breast cancer if you have a BRCA mutation is about 70%. For those that are under age 40, about 10% of breast cancers exist due to BRCA gene mutations and around 5% of older women with breast cancer have BRCA-positive genes.

How the BRCA gene mutations can impact treatment

BRCA mutations often happen in cancers that have a higher tumor grade which implies that the disease is more aggressive. While it enables it to be more challenging to treat, the success rate is still very high. In women with mutations of the BRCA gene, they tend not to have estrogen or progesterone receptors, which are proteins on the surface of breast cancer cells that lead to cancer growth when they bind with these hormones.

This shows that in most cases, medicines that treat breast cancers occur due to hormone receptor malfunctions will likely not work for BRCA mutations. However, breast cancers in women with BRCA mutations usually respond better to neoadjuvant chemotherapy which is offered before surgery, than in women without these mutations.

Genetic testing for BRCA mutations

A lot of people don’t usually get genetic testing for breast cancer. Meanwhile, women who had breast cancer before or have a family history of breast cancer might choose to test for the BRCA gene. However, before you conclude to get tested for BRCA genes, you need to discuss with your physician should in case you get a positive result. The physician will be able to talk about treatment options with you after you have received the results.

In the same vein, you can decide to speak up with your loved ones if you are having a hard time to make the decision to go through with a test. While it might feel scary to think about the possibility of testing positive for the genes, it is very advisable to know so that you can easily begin the treatment. Oftentimes, the support from friends and family can make positive impact when it comes to issues related to your health and well-being.

If you are positive

If you have a positive result for breast cancer genes, it could be that you need to have mammograms before the usual age of 40. When the test is positive, the decision to go through with treatment is ultimately up to you. A lot of women who test positive don’t end up developing cancer. Speak up with your doctor and decide on the best course of action.

Preventing breast cancer

One of the major factors that can cause increase in the risk of developing breast cancer is lifestyle. It is important to eat a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits, veggies, avoid eating several processed foods, stay out of smoking, and engage in several exercises.

It is also advisable to discuss hormone therapy with your doctor and people who carried a heightened risk of breast cancer are advised to go for surgery to even remove the breasts which is called prophylactic mastectomy.


Although a tiny portion of the population carries the BRCA gene mutation, women who do have it are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Anyone that has a family history of breast cancer or have had it by yourself before, you may want to get tested for the gene mutation. Verily, this is a great decision that you need to make with your doctor and loved ones, and if the result come out positive, you will need to check out for the course of action you want to embark on.

Meanwhile, you should always remember that getting a positive result doesn’t mean you will absolutely get breast cancer. It only means that you have the gene mutation for breast cancer, and that you have a higher likelihood than the average population of developing. In all, you can possibly prevent the disease from developing by the following healthy lifestyle practices which includes:

· Drink a lot of water

· Eat antioxidants in fruits and vegetables

· Get quality sleep

· Engage in daily exercise

· Distress with yoga or meditation

· Get enough sunshine

Adopting these healthful habits won’t mean that cancer can’t develop. But it will have a harder time growing in an oxygenated environment.

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