All Ashkenazi Jews Should Test For Cancer Gene, Study Says
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All Ashkenazi Jews Should Test For Cancer Gene, Study Says

New research challenges current practice of only testing those with a family history.

All Ashkenazi women aged 30 and over should undergo screening for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, a new study says.

The research, conducted at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, found high rates of ovarian and breast cancer whether or not there was family history of the disease. Of the randomly selected women and men who tested positively for the genetic mutation in the BRCA genes, about half had a history of cancer in the family while the other half did not.

Ephrat Levy-Lahad, who lead the research team, said the research suggests that all women of Ashkenazi descent should get tested for the genetic mutations. “This should be offered as a universal screening test,” she told the New York Times.

While recognizing the validity of the research done by the Shaare Zedek team, experts on Jewish genetic screenings in the U.S. are still hesitant to make the screenings universal.

The Center for Jewish Genetics has not changed its position that all Ashkenazi women should get genetic counseling to “help decide if screening is appropriate.”

“Further research is warranted to determine whether universal screening should be the norm,” a statement from the center said.

Joy Larsen Haidle, president-elect of The National Society of Genetics, also said that it is premature to require all American women over the age of 30 to undergo testing solely based on a study in a high-risk population of Ashekenazi Jews in Israel.

“In addition, at this time the U.S. medical system is in no way prepared to implement universal testing,” she said in a written statement, “and genetic counselors have serious concerns about the long-term implications for patients and their families.” She did not comment on whether universal testing should be implemented within the Asheknazi community.

Although the research is conclusive that more Ashkenazi women and men have mutations on the BRCA genes than previously thought, it has yet to gain enough support from the broader genetic research community to implement any universal policy, either within or outside the Ashkenazi population.

editor@jewishweek.org

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