Why do all my doctors ask if I’m Jewish. I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

It has nothing to do with synagogues or religious belief per se!

Some genetic changes (mutations) are more common in certain groups of people than others.  These mutations are referred to as “Founder Mutations”.  They occur when groups of people are separated due to religious, ethnic or geographic reasons.  Some examples are Thalassemia in people from South East Asia and Haemochromotosis in Caucasians.

People of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (that is with a German, Polish or Russian background) are more likely to carry specific mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are important genes.  If they are not working properly because of a mutation, the risk of certain cancers, especially breast and ovarian cancer, is increased.

If you are of Ashkenzai Jewish heritage and you or a close relative has had cancer, you should speak to your doctor or a cancer genetic specialist.

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