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JScreen Is Making Cancer Genetic Testing Accessible

Ashkenazi men and women face a 1-in-40 risk of carrying mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (genes linked to breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and melanoma cancers) — more than 10 times the risk in the general population.
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May 13, 2021
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JScreen, a national public health initiative based at Emory University, Atlanta, has announced what could be a major breakthrough: a program that offers at-home testing for more than 60 cancer susceptibility genes linked to certain hereditary risks.

“This type of testing is important because it alerts people to their risks before they get cancer,” explained Jane Lowe Meisel, MD, an associate professor at Emory’s School of Medicine. “They can then take action to help prevent cancer altogether or to detect it at an early, treatable stage.”

Previously, JScreen, a non-profit committed to preventing Jewish genetic diseases, had been focused on screening for reproductive carrier diseases such as Tay-Sachs, which occur more commonly in the Jewish population. JScreen has tested thousands of participants, providing high-risk couples essential information about having healthy children.

JScreen’s emphasis expanded, however, after hearing from Jewish communities across the country that sought genetic testing to evaluate personal cancer risks. The reason: Ashkenazi men and women face a 1-in-40 risk of carrying mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (genes linked to breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and melanoma cancers) — more than 10 times the risk in the general population. Ashkenazi Jews are at increased risk for carrying these mutations even if they do not have a personal or close family history of BRCA-related cancers.

Ashkenazi Jews are at increased risk for carrying these mutations even if they do not have a personal or close family history of BRCA-related cancers.

Karen Arnovitz Grinzaid, MS, CGC, JScreen’s executive director said, ““Through simple saliva tests that can be done at home, we can now provide information about genetic risks across an entire lifespan that will save and change lives.”

JScreen is the first national non-profit to offer at-home screening focused on hereditary risks in the Jewish community.

Karen Shmerling, 62, said JScreen saved her life. Screened during a pilot study, Shmerling said she “never even thought to get screened until I learned about the study. After I underwent screening, I found out I was BRCA2 positive. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy before cancer could possibly come my way.”

To learn more, visit JScreen.org.

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