Crucial mutations


Dr. Andrew Ashikari.

A simple blood test could change the outcome of a future cancer patient’s life. In the 1990s, a test was developed to identify those that had genetic mutations known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (breast and ovarian cancer gene.)

Recent studies have suggest that those carrying the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation have a 50 to 80 percent greater risk of getting breast cancer and a 40 percent greater chance of ovarian cancer than those without the gene. These inherited genes have a greater chance of showing up in someone of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (Central and Eastern Europe.)

According to Sharsheret (an organization that supports young Jewish women and families facing breast and ovarian cancer —, one in 40 people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are at risk, compared to one in 345 of non-Ashkenazi individuals.

To this end, women and men who have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer from either their maternal or paternal side are encouraged to get tested for the gene, particularly if those cancers came on at a young age in their relative or relatives. If someone had a familial history of breast and/or ovarian cancer are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, that risk is greatly compounded.

If BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic mutations are discovered during a blood test, depending on family history and ethnic heritage, surgical interventions are available that those with the gene may want to consider, or at the least understand.

In light of the predisposition to breast and ovarian cancers in Eastern and Central European Jewish women and men, the Jewish Congregation of the New Paltz Community Center (JCNP) has invited Dr. Andrew Ashikari, a prominent surgeon and pioneer in the research of genetic ovarian and breast cancers, as well as a founder with his father of the renowned Ashikari Breast Cancer Center in Westchester, to speak on this topic on Monday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the JCNP at 30 N. Chestnut St.

Merly Klaus, who helped organize the event, said she was inspired to do so because of knowing people within the local Jewish community that had the BRCA 1 and 2 gene — some of whom were tested and took preventative action and some who were not informed of the test and are battling breast or ovarian cancer.

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