BRCA1 and BRCA2: Predictive Gene Testing Lets Women Know if They Are at Risk for Developing Breast Cancer

Every year, nearly 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Research has shown that about 10 percent of these cases occur in women who have inherited higher-risk factors from their parents. Knowing this early in their lives can help them take a preventive approach to their health care, including more frequent screenings.

Two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, normally help the body fight off breast cancer. But an inherited mutation of these genes can make women more at risk for developing breast cancer. In fact, by age 70, women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation are nearly 10 times more susceptible to developing breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2, and their mutations, were discovered in the mid-1990s by a research team led by Mark Skolnick, Ph.D., a professor in the department of medical informatics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and executive vice president of research and development for Myriad Genetics. The research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Utah and others.

The number of women being tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 is growing by 40 percent every year.

Since that time Myriad has become an international leader in preventive medicine and discovering disease-related genes. In 2007 Myriad Genetics expects to analyze more than 70,000 tests, which have become an accepted part of medical care among women.

This story was originally published in 2007.

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