The genetic mutation that can increase breast and ovarian cancer risk in women can be an often overlooked risk factor for men as well.
Most women are aware of the risk associated with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. When they function properly, the BRCA genes repair cell damage and keep cells growing normally. However, if breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or prostate cancer runs in a family, it’s probably a good idea for men to be tested for BRCA and other genetic mutations as well.
Men with abnormal BRCA genes have a higher risk of breast cancer than men who don’t – up to about an 8% lifetime risk. There are also increased risks for prostate cancer, melanoma (skin cancer) and pancreatic cancer. And most men are unaware of the risk, thinking of this as a “women’s issue.”
So what’s a guy to do? Begin by discussing your complete family medical history with your doctor. You may discover that you are a candidate for gene testing. Your physician can refer you to a qualified genetic counselor who can order the appropriate tests and discuss the results with you. If a man tests positive, he may consider increased cancer screening or potentially participating in a study to help him and others reduce cancer risk. Additionally, this information may be important for his family members as well.
Nicole Boxer is a Certified Genetics Counselor at the White Plains Hospital Center for Cancer Care.