Tens of thousands with Jewish ancestry will undergo genetic testing for BRCA gene mutations under a new NHS initiative programme.

Following a one-year pilot scheme, The NHS Jewish BRCA Testing Programme has officially launched, with the aim to detect and prevent cancers early, which in turn will significantly impact survival rates.

This ground-breaking initiative enables anyone living in England who is aged 18 or over and has one or more Jewish grandparent, to take a simple at home test to find out if they carry a BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation. People with Jewish ancestry are around 6 times more likely to carry such genetic faults compared to the general population, which increases their risk of developing certain cancers, including breast.

Charities Jnetics and Chai Cancer Care have been appointed as joint community engagement partners for The Programme and have been working together to raise awareness in Jewish communities. Both charities share the belief that knowledge is power and welcome this landmark initiative for allowing people to seek extra cancer surveillance and preventative measures should they so wish after a confirmed BRCA mutation.

Chai Cancer Care commented:

As engagement partners, Jnetics and Chai are committed to supporting the community to make informed choices, not only for themselves but also for their wider family members and to deliver expert support and care at every stage.

The official launch of The Programme took place at The House of Lords and was well attended by leading figures from NHS England together with Lords and MPs, CEOs from a number of national cancer charities, and key stakeholders spanning the Jewish Community and beyond.

Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England said:

BRCA testing for the people most at risk has the potential to save lives, by allowing them to take steps to reduce the chance of cancers developing or making sure that any cancer can be detected as early as possible, with those at increased risk able to take advantage of surveillance and prevention programmes with their health teams.

Ranjit Manchanda, Professor at Wolfson Institute of Population Health, who has spent 16 years researching and pioneering The Programme agreed:

I am absolutely delighted to see this programme come into fruition. It is about identifying more people who are at risk and it’s about saving lives.

People with at least one Jewish grandparent can register for a saliva kit by visiting The NHS Jewish BRCA Testing Programme website. The saliva samples will be carried out at home and then sent to labs for testing, with the aim to test 30,000 people over the next two years.

CEO of Prevent Breast Cancer, Nikki Barraclough, took part in the pilot, and is thrilled at the commencement of the national roll-out:

The NHS Jewish BRCA Testing Programme is an incredibly important initiative, which will identify people at a very high risk of breast cancer, empowering them to make informed decisions about their health. I took part last year in the initial trial and it’s incredibly quick and easy to do. Please tell anyone you know who fits the criteria. It could save their life.

Published On: February 21st, 2024 /

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