B.C. initiative aims to expand genetic screening for Ashkenazi Jewish people at risk of hereditary cancers

British Columbia

An imminent pilot project will study the prevalence of the BRCA mutations among Ashkenazi Jewish peoples in B.C. and aims to offer free, voluntary genetic testing to everyone with that heritage.

1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carry genetic mutations that increase risk of several cancers: U.S. CDC

Two women hold a picture of an older man in a yard.
Catriona Remocker, left, and her mother Jane Remocker, pictured here on May 27, 2023, are trying to spread awareness that Ashkenazi Jewish people are at higher risks of some cancers after Catriona’s father, Dr. Geoffrey Remocker, passed away in 2016. He was a carrier of BRCA gene mutations. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

The final gift Catriona Remocker’s father gave her was discovered by a lab in a vial of his blood.

Dr. Geoffrey Remocker died of Stage IV prostate cancer in 2016, just two weeks after testing confirmed he was a carrier for genetic mutations that increase the likelihood of developing ovarian, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

These hereditary BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are ten times more common among both men and women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, like Remocker and her father, than non-Jewish people.

About one in 40 individuals with Ashkenazi heritage carry the mutations, according to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, which increase the likelihood of women developing ovarian cancer, for example, from one per cent 

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