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Men don’t have ovaries, but…

men brcaI was at a party this past weekend and I overheard one man saying to another, “No, you don’t have ovaries.”  Mystified, I jumped into the conversation, either to get in on the joke or to provide some basic biology input.  It turns out that one of those men was saying that he wanted to go for BRCA testing, which prompted the other one’s “interesting” retort.

And thus arose my opportunity to educate what soon became a whole bunch of men!  The man who was interested in BRCA testing shared that he had a strong family history of a variety of cancers, and also knew that men could be BRCA mutation carriers.  But not too many of the other men there knew the latter.  Part of this stems from the fact that when we hear about BRCA, we usually hear about breasts and ovaries, see the color pink, and, most recently, associate all of this with Angelina Jolie (the “Angelina angle” is where the whole conversation between the two men started).

I reminded the group that men are equally as likely to be BRCA carriers as are women.  And that the chance of being a carrier is about 1 in 500 in the general population, and about 1 in 40 for individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (regardless of personal/family history of cancer).   I informed them that male BRCA carriers have increased risks of several cancer types including male breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma, among others.  Finally, I told them that BRCA carriers have a 50% chance of passing the mutation onto their offspring, be those male or female offspring. Not wanting to push my luck, but sensing that I still had a captive audience, I directed them to our Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer lesson on www.GeneSights.com).

Shortly after, the conversation drifted back to party small talk.  But, I knew I had had my moment, and also my material for a new blog.

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