Fertility Advancements

Preimplantation Genetic Testing of Embryos for BRCA Mutation Carriers

Preimplantation Genetic Testing of Embryos for BRCA Mutation Carriers

BRCA1 (BReast CAncer) and BRCA2 are human genes known as tumor suppressors. Harmful mutations of these genes can be linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In the United States, between one in 400 – 800 people in the general population carry a BRCA mutation. Individuals with an Ashkenazi Jewish background have an increased incidence; 1 in 40 may be affected with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. There are many variations in BRCA genes, and not all changes confer the same risks.  Some variants are harmless; others are known to be very harmful. For women trying to conceive, preimplantation genetic testing of embryos for BRCA mutation carriers is an option.

What To Consider if You Are a Carrier of BRCA1 or BRCA2 Carrier

If you inherit a BRCA1 or BRCA2 harmful mutation, your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 60 to 80 percent, compared to about 13 percent in the general population. This translates to a five-fold increased risk for breast cancer.  If you have a harmful BRCA1 mutation, you have a 30 to 45 percent lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. Cancer risks by age are shown in the table below. Overall, it has been estimated that inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for 5 to 10 percent of total breast cancers and 10 to 15 percent of the total ovarian cancers among white women in the United States.

Men with BRCA2 mutations also have an increased risk of breast cancer, and male BRCA1 carriers may have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Your Cancer Risks

If You Have NOT Had Breast or Ovarian Cancer Mutation Carrier General Population
Breast cancer by age 50 33-50% 2%
Breast cancer by age 70 56-87% 7%
Ovarian cancer by age 70 27-44% <2%
Male breast cancer by age 70 6% .05%

Who Should Be Tested for BRCA Mutation?

Family history may indicate the need for testing. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the likelihood of a harmful BRCA mutation is increased when:

  • Two first-degree relatives (mother, daughter, or sister) are diagnosed with breast cancer, one of whom was diagnosed at age 50 or younger
  • Three or more first or second-degree (grandmother or aunt) relatives diagnosed with breast cancer regardless of their age at diagnosis
  • A first-degree relative with cancer diagnosed in both breasts
  • A combination of two or more first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer regardless of age at diagnosis
  • Breast cancer diagnosed in a male relative

Preimplantation Genetic Testing of Embryos for BRCA Mutation Carriers

Patients diagnosed as BRCA carriers are faced with complicated treatment decisions regarding both their own future risk of cancer as well as the risk to their children. Some women are faced with the decision of whether to proceed with surgically removing both breasts (mastectomies) and ovaries to reduce their cancer risks. If you are a carrier, your child has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutated BRCA gene. Male and female BRCA carriers may choose to proceed with genetic screening of their embryos (preimplantation genetic testing or PGT). PGT permits the transfer of embryos that are less likely to carry the BRCA harmful mutations.

Contact Us

At Fertility Centers of New England, our goal is to optimize all aspects of a patient’s overall health in order to have the best possible chance of conceiving. If you have more questions preimplantation genetic testing of embryos for BRCA mutation carriers, please contact us today!


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