Jewish Institute aims to educate about breast cancer risks

Posted Monday, Oct 28th, 2013
Deseret News

A prominent Jewish education institute is beginning an aggressive community outreach campaign to educate people, especially Jewish women, on potential risks for breast cancer, such as the BRCA gene mutation that led to celebrity Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy.

According to a statement from The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, a BRCA gene mutation that causes breast cancer is 10 times more frequent among Jewish women than the general population.

The institute is bringing awareness workshops (a six-week course called “Life in the Balance”) to 362 communities across the United States to provide pertinent information for Jewish women and the general population on this mutation and medical dilemmas that could result from it.

“Statistics like these are leaving women in the Jewish community with some tough decisions to make,” said Rabbi Efraim Mintz, executive director of JLI, in the statement. “Some are reluctant to get tested, worried about the medical and financial repercussions, and the prospect of facing radical surgeries that could affect their self-image or ability to have children. Having to face decisions of such complexity has led many women to avoid addressing the issue altogether. But with mortality rates so high, this is hardly a problem the Jewish community can afford to ignore.”

JLI said in its statement that about 2 percent of women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent carry the mutation, while .02 percent of the general population carry the mutation.

The BRCA mutation isn’t new to the national media, as actress Jolie announced earlier this year she had the "Jewish mutation." Her decision to have preventative surgery has prompted many women across the country to get checked for BRCA, the Jewish Daily Forward reported.

“Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo double mastectomy is saving lives as more women seek to be tested for the ‘Jewish gene’ mutation that caused her breast cancer,” according to the Daily Forward.

Recent studies have suggested abnormal amounts of female hormones in the bloodstream may be a reason those with the mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer, according to Medical News Today. However, it's still unclear why the mutated genes lead to cancer. 

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