Boys and BRCA

pink ribbon dna
The BRCA gene mutations are pretty scary. I should know. My mom's a breast cancer survivor of almost eight years. I asked her about them. She could not remember off the top of her head if she has the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations. If she does have them, I have a pretty scary future ahead of me, especially since I will eventually have to be tested for them. I know the risks I have ahead of me, but what about my brother? I've seen many reports that the BRCA gene mutations can affect men just as badly as women. They too, have the higher risk of getting breast cancer (because let's face it, it does not affect just women!) as well as getting prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and testicular cancer. This caused me to dig up some information about men with the BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations.

According to a 2009 report from U.S. News, men in families where breast cancer is prevalent, or who have family members with the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, don't normally get a genetic test to determine if they have it as well. When they do get the test, and if they find out that they have the gene, they are less likely than women to discuss with their family members that they have it, and that their loved ones could potentially have the gene as well. This is a startling fact, only because they have a 50% chance of passing it on to their offspring. If a man marries a woman who also has the gene, the risk of passing it on to their offspring is very elevated.

Men who have the gene have a higher risk of developing cancer at a younger age. They also have a higher risk (albeit much lower than a woman) of developing breast cancer, which is why it is important for them to also get mammograms and "feel their boobies." 

Men with the either the BRCA2 mutation have a 2.8% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70, which rises to 6.9% before the age of 80, according to the British Journal of Medicine. If men have the BRCA1 mutation, then they have about a 1-2% chance of developing breast cancer. The risk for prostate cancer associated with men was about 7.5% before age 70, with a higher relative risk for men under 65. 

The media highly publicizes women and breast cancer, but is slightly mum when it comes to men. Why is this? Why is such a large mutation in genes linked to this type of cancer somewhat hushed in the male community, when it has a chance of affecting them as well?

Most importantly, if you were a guy who has a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer associated with the BRCA gene, would you get a genetic test to determine if you had it?


I wish you and your family the best. It is incredible that your mom is a breast cancer survivor. It's such a scary and life altering thing. I've had many people around me this year be affected by breast cancer and have seen how much strength they have had to use in order to get through this difficult time in their lives. Why do you think the idea of males and breast cancer is one of those things that are looked upon as something to remain silent about?

This is really interesting. When most people think about breast cancer they think of it as something that effects women, but men really do have to be just as aware. I think it is important that more men start realizing that they could be susceptible to breast cancer just like women. It is so scary that anyone, no matter how healthy they are, can be struck with cancer. Maybe it would help if doctors spoke more about it to men, then maybe they wouldn't hide their illness from people.

This article actually reminds me of what Andrew showed us in class earlier this week. The website showed took saliva samples, and then did genetic testing on the saliva to study genetic tendencies. My feelings about that study, and to answer your question posed at the end of your article, is no i would not take the test. That may be ignorant, and I can understand why people want to know certain diseases/cancers that they may be prone to, but that just seems like opening up Pandora's box. I'd simply rather not know.

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