Hereditary cancer facts

  • Men who carry BRCA1/2 genetic mutations can pass the mutation to their children, even though male mutation carriers don’t face the same high cancer risk as women.
  • BRCA mutations are more common in ethnic populations that have traditionally been isolated, including Ashkenazi Jewish people, French-Canadian people, and people from the Bahamas.
  • More than 60 per cent of Jewish women with a BRCA mutation in Ontario don’t meet the criteria to be eligible for provincially-funded genetic testing.
  • Of the 38 per cent of Jewish mutation carriers who do qualify for genetic testing, few are referred by their family doctor.
  • These women have a 70 to 80 per cent risk of getting breast cancer – often at a young age.
  • With evidence-based therapies, these women can reduce the risk dramatically, and prevent cancer.
  • Because of Steven Narod’s research, WCRI’s genetic counseling clinic has identified hundreds of women with BRCA mutations – some already developing early-stage cancer – who would otherwise never have known.
  • Regardless of their family history, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 or younger, or with serous ovarian cancer, should talk to her doctor about genetic testing.
  • Much of this work was funded by donors, including long-standing support from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Aletta Poll (above right) and Sonia Nanda, WCRI’s genetic counsellors, support a strong connection between patient care and research. They provide integral service and support to families with histories of breast and/or ovarian cancers. While looking after patients is their focus, their work also supports the growth of Dr. Steven Narod’s database, enhancing the research generated by the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit. Also trained as a genetic counsellor, Dr. Amy Finch (above left) is now a post-doctoral fellow at WCRI.