What’s in Your Genes? “Healthy You 2022”

The statistics tell an unsettling story:
One in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish men and women—or more than 10 times that of the general population—carry a mutation in one of the BRCA genes, dramatically increasing their risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.

One in 14 Jews carry a mutation in the APC gene which doubles their risk for colorectal cancer, reflecting one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group.

Eighty percent of babies born with a heritable genetic disease are born to parents who have no family history of that disease. The only way to know if a child carries a genetic mutation is to either be tested or the baby is born with a devasting disorder.

Then again, there is good news too.

Tay Sachs and other genetic diseases have been eradicated due to increased knowledge and community understanding of risk. Today, it is possible to know your own genetic disposition prior to starting a family with a simple spit test through JScreen’s ReproGen; a reproductive carrier screening test designed for individuals between the ages of 18-45 to determine their risk for having a child with a genetic disease.The panel tests for more than 200 genetic diseases that are commonly found in the Jewish population and other populations.

In addition, JScreen also offers CancerGen; a cancer screening spit test designed for individuals who are 21 and older that looks for genetic changes that increase the risk for many types of cancer. The panel tests for more than 60 genes, such as BRCA1/2, that are related to heredity cancer. In many cases, individuals who test positive have  options to reduce the chances of developing cancer or to detect it at an early, treatable stage. Because we share genetic information with our family members, a positive result may also alert other relatives to consider testing. For those who have had a cancer diagnosis, knowing the genetic cause may help identify other cancer risks and help their doctor adjust their medical management.

The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven wants to help. And so, to ensure that all members of our community have the ability to be screened for Jewish genetic diseases, a fund has been established to help support those who
would like to be screened.

Learn more about JScreen and other programs at “Healthy You 2022,” to be held on Sunday, May 15, hosted by the JCC and Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. A collaborative program
presented in partnership with Discovery to Cure, JScreen, and Gift of Life, will focus on learning how to gain information about your personal genetic risks as well as on the hands-on monitoring available.

Speakers will include experts in cancer and genetic counseling, including Dr. Gary Altwerger, gynecologic oncologist; Emily Goldberg, MS, CGC, genetic counselor; Dr. Sarah Rosasco, radiologist; Estie Rose, MS CGC genetic counselor; and Dr. Harry Schwartz, gastroenterologist.

A committee of volunteers, led by Dr. Dana Schwartz and Robyn Teplitzky are encouraging all to participate. The event is free and open to the community. This program is only made possible by the generosity of our community and lead sponsors; The Frances Shield Fund for JCC Healthy Women Healthy Lives, and Sound Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For more information about sponsorship and vendor opportunities, contact Lindsay Barger at lbarger@jewishnewhaven.org, or visit https://jccnh.org/healthyyou2022.