More than 90 percent of the estimated 6 million Jewish people living in the United States are of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jewish descent–primarily from Germany, Poland and Russia.
Researchers have shown that Ashkenazi women face a higher risk of breast cancer. Associate professor Sophie Lelièvre, a breast cancer research scientist at Purdue University, said researchers don’t know why Ashkenazi women are more prone to breast cancer than other ethnic or racial groups.
“This is a population that has more of a problem than it used to be,” Lelièvre said. “Not only do they have higher risk of developing breast cancer but also a higher risk of developing a very aggressive form of breast cancer.”
According to the Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina, genetic disorders worldwide are common in various ethnic, racial or geographic groups.
In the Ashkenazi Jewish population, one such genetic disorder is an increased susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.
Researchers recently discovered that Ashkenazi Jewish women are more likely to have certain alterations in the genes “BRCA1” or “BRCA2” than women in the general population. As many as 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women (2.65 percent) might carry one of these alterations, which could put them at higher risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.