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NHS launches national BRCA gene testing programme for people with Jewish ancestry

Tens of thousands of people with Jewish ancestry will be able to receive free genetic testing through a new NHS programme. This group is 6 times more likely than the general population to carry a fault in the BRCA genes, which can increase the risk of developing some cancers.

Two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, repair DNA damage and normally help to protect against cancer. Some individuals are born with a fault in one of these genes, which increases their risk of developing certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate.

Being aware of their significantly increased risk can encourage people to seek early access to surveillance and prevention services, and consider a range of options including regular screening, lifestyle changes, risk-reducing surgery, or medicines to help lower their risk.

Anyone over the age of 18 who is living in England and has at least one Jewish grandparent may be eligible for a simple genetic saliva test to look for the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 faults.

The saliva samples will be collected at home and then be sent to labs for testing.

During the pilot phase of the programme, thousands of people came forward for testing. This national roll-out will see around 30,000 people tested over the next two years.

The charities Jnetics and Chai Cancer Care have been working to raise awareness in Jewish communities and encourage those eligible to come forward for a free test.

For information and to register for a saliva kit, please visit :