The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics
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BRCA Screening

Direct-to-consumer advertisements are urging women to be tested for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are the most common known causes of an inherited predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. Clinically important BRCA mutations have been found in about 2% of Ashkenazi Jewish women, and are estimated to occur in about 1 in 300 to 500 women in the general non-Jewish US population.1 The prevalence appears to be lower in non-whites.

WHO SHOULD BE SCREENED? — If the youngest woman in the family who has breast or ovarian cancer tests negative for BRCA mutations, further testing of the family may not be indicated.

BRCA genes can be inherited from either parent. The family histories that warrant consideration of testing, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force, are listed in the table below.When a woman tests positive, her first- ... more      

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