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U.S. Panel Says More Women Should Get BRCA Gene Testing for Breast Cancer: Brainstorm Health

Good afternoon, readers.

An independent expert panel of scientists specializing in prevention says that many more American women can benefit from genetic screening for BRCA genes associated with breast and ovarian cancers—but caution that it's not for everyone.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released its latest guidelines for BRCA1/2 gene mutation-related cancers, which make up about 5% to 10% of breast cancers and a higher share of ovarian cancers.

"The USPSTF recommends that primary care clinicians assess women with a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer or who have an ancestry associated with BRCA1/2 gene mutations with an appropriate brief familial risk assessment tool," wrote the panel in the journal JAMA. "Women with a positive result on the risk assessment tool should receive genetic counseling and, if indicated after counseling, genetic testing."

This builds upon existing recommendations by emphasizing that women who have already had breast cancer, or other kinds of BRCA-associated cancers, or those whose families and ancestries put them at particularly high risk of BRCA mutations that can lead to such cancers, should be genetically screened by primary care physicians.

With this information in hand, the panel says, the women can make personal decisions with the help of a genetic counselor on the best ways to reduce the risk of cancer or cancer recurrence.

The USPSTF's guidelines carry weight—services with a high enough level of recommendation tend to be covered by private health insurance.

On the flipside, the group appeared to acknowledge that over-testing can also do harm. "Women whose personal or family history or ancestry is not associated with potential harmful BRCA1/2 gene mutations" were given a far lower, D-level recommendation for BRCA screening and genetic counseling.

Read on for the day's news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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