The Benefits of Genetic Testing in the Jewish Community


The Benefits of Genetic Testing in the Jewish Community 

An inherited mutation of the BRCA genes increases an individual’s chance of getting cancer at some point in their lives. Women carrying these mutations have a 45% to 65% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime and a 15% to 45% chance of getting ovarian cancer. While it is rare, men who carry these mutations also have a risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer.

The Ashkenazi Jewish population is known to contain a particularly high number of mutation-carriers; about 1 in 40 carry BRCA mutations, compared to 1 in 800 in the general population.

Family history of breast or ovarian cancer is known as a crucial marker for cancer as the BRCA gene can be inherited from either parent. Individuals with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancers can be tested to see if they carry these mutations. Criteria for testing include assessment of how many relations developed cancer before certain ages, and how closely related they are.

Research by the Women’s Cancer Department at University College London found that in their study of 1168 participants, more than half (56%) the people carrying a gene mutation identified through the population testing would not have been identified through family history based screening.

Conclusions from their research found that if 71% of the 114,400 eligible women were tested, there would be 276 fewer cases of ovarian cancer and 508 fewer breast cancers in this group.


Join American Friends of Rabin Medical Center for the seventh annual Cheryl Diamond NYC 5K SCHLEP: Breast & Ovarian Cancer Run / Walk on Sunday, June 4, 2017 at Battery Park, NYC.

This vital event raises global awareness for BRCA genetic screening for breast & ovarian cancer, benefits global research studies on breast and ovarian cancer cures, and BRCA mutation carriers and benefits the BRCA Multidisciplinary Clinic at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center, the premier hospital in the Middle East.

Run / Walk TODAY! Register here:



Breast Cancer and Exercising

fitfact-exerciseandbreastcancerExercising Keeps Breast Cancer Survivors Happier and Healthier Longer

According to a recent Reuters article, regular exercise keeps breast cancer survivors alive longer. While understanding that daily exercise directly correlates with health may not be new to some of our readers, it is important that we remind ourselves of the impact it can have.

According to Reuters, several lifestyle changes can drastically improve life after a breast cancer diagnosis, however regular exercise is substantially a better habit to establish, researchers say.

Women with breast cancer, whether newly diagnosed or at any time in their “survivorship” phase, must exercise regularly to avoid common weight gain, said Dr. Ellen Warner from the Odette Cancer Center at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, who coauthored the research review.

In the research, they found that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer by a staggering 40% in comparison to women who did not exercise. Gaining weight during or after breast cancer treatment is risky – it increases the chance of recurrence and decreases survival rates, the review concludes. Unfortunately, studies show that less than 13% of women with breast cancer are active for the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity.

So, what types of exercises should breast cancer survivors stray from? 

Some doctors and women are worried that strength training –  lifting weights in particular – can trigger the onset of lymphedema.

Other possibly risky exercises for breast cancer survivors include:

  • Swimming laps using strokes with arm movements. Swimming laps with the arms resting on a kickboard or other floating device may be better for some women.
  • Using resistance bands. When pulling on a resistance band, you don’t know how much resistance is being generated; it may be too strenuous for your arm.
  • Body weight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups. It’s difficult to know how much weight you are moving; the movements may put too much stress on the shoulders and arms.
  • Some yoga poses such as downward dog and inversions. These poses may put too much weight on the arms.
  • P90X. Some of the exercises in this program may cause too much stress on the arms and shoulders if done as recommended. Many women modify the movements to make them less stressful on the arms.
  • Elliptical/cross-training machines, tennis, and cross-country skiing. If you’re starting a new exercise program after breast cancer surgery, you may want to avoid working the arm on the side where you had surgery by doing additional exercise.


Here are the steps to take to make sure you exercise safely:

  • Get the OK from your primary care physician and surgeon.
  • Take any precautions that are necessary.
  • Do your warm-ups.
  • Make slow and steady progress. Expect to improve gradually.
  • Focus on form.
  • Stop if you feel pain.
  • Rest as needed.
  • Tell your instructor you’re a survivor.
Based on the article: and




Screening tests are used to find breast cancer before it causes any warning signs or symptoms. If you screen early, your likelihood of finding breast cancer early is higher. Regular screening tests (along with follow-up tests and treatment if diagnosed) reduce your chance of dying from breast cancer.

When you make an appointment with your doctor to test for breast cancer, you can expect to have a screening test that includes a clinical breast exam and mammography. Women who may be at a higher risk for breast cancer may be consulted to have a MRI test done in addition.

Breast cancer screening is important for all women, especially Ashkenazi Jewish women (women who carry the BRCA1 gene). In this case, you may need to be screened earlier and more often then other women.

Breast cancer screening is only recommended for some men at very high risk due to an inherited gene mutation or a strong family history of breast cancer.



It’s recommended that women do a monthly at-home self-exam routine. If you feel a lump in your breast during your routine, don’t panic! Most lumps are not breast cancer, but something much less serious, such as a benign (not cancerous) breast condition.

However, if you find a lump, it is best to see a doctor to be sure it is not breast cancer.



American Friends of Rabin Medical Center hosts the annual NYC 5K SCHLEP: Breast & Ovarian Cancer Run / Walk that brings together hundreds of participants from the New York tri-state area to raise the hopes of those battling breast and ovarian cancer as well as awareness and funds to help further critical research and treatment.

Registration: Adult runner/walker – $36, Youth runner/walker (18 years old and under) – $18. All cancer survivors run / walk for free!

Register yourself or create your team today at OR  Reach us at 212-279-2522 or by email at


See photos from last year’s NYC 5k SCHLEP!

2016 NYC 5k SCHLEP Video Highlights







Breast Cancer & What Everyone Should Know

9ae79c50b7883072fcf1bdef68ce28aaBreast Cancer & What Everyone Should Know

According to the Harvard Medical School, in 2017, about 255,180 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. alone. Today, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Therefore, understanding breast cancer and its symptoms is important, and therefore knowing that it can be treated.

In this weeks post, we will be tackling the basics of breast cancer and how to identify it.

What IS breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when cells divide and grow without their normal control. Tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. (Some tumors are aggressive and grow much faster.)

The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common signs are a change in the look or feel of the breast. Due to the use of regular mammography screening, most breast cancers in the U.S. are found at an early stage, before warning signs appear. If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider.

Breast and ovarian cancer are more common among Ashkenazi Jewish women (women with ancestors from Central or Eastern Europe). This is likely due to the high prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but those who have an inherited mutation in either of these genes have an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Among women with breast cancer in the general population, about 2 percent carry a BRCA1/2 mutation. Between 8-10 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women with breast cancer have a BRCA1/2 mutation.



In the US among women in 2017, it’s estimated that:

  • 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer (This includes new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors)
  • Among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women, about 1 in 40 have a BRCA1/2 mutation
  • BRCA2 carriers have about a 45 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70



How can we support those who have breast cancer?

American Friends of Rabin Medical Center hosts The annual NYC 5K SCHLEP: Breast and Ovarian Cancer Run / Walk, which is a certified 5K that brings together hundreds of participants from the New York tri-state area, ranging in age from 6 – 90 years old, bound together in solidarity to raise the hopes of those battling breast and ovarian cancer as well as awareness and funds to help further research and treatment.

The NYC 5K SCHLEP Run / Walk benefits a BRCA Multidisciplinary Clinic to serve women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer and funds research to find cures for breast and ovarian cancers. The NYC 5k SCHLEP Run / Walk also supports studies in connection to BRCA mutation carriers. The event raises over $150,000 annually.

Registration: Adult runner/walker – $36, Youth runner/walker (18 years old and under) – $18. All cancer survivors run / walk for free.

Register yourself or create your team today at OR Call 212-279-2522 or email

2016 NYC 5K SCHLEP Flickr: 

2016 NYC 5K SCHLEP Video Highlights:




Ashkenazi Women & the BRCA Gene


Who are Ashkenazi Jews?

Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants. The adjective “Ashkenazic” and corresponding nouns, Ashkenazi (singular) and Ashkenazim (plural) are derived from the Hebrew word “Ashkenaz,” which is used to refer to Germany. Most American Jews today are Ashkenazim, descended from Jews who emigrated from Germany and Eastern Europe from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. The pages in this site are written from the Ashkenazic Jewish perspective.

What is the BRCA gene? 

Women who carry the BRCA gene mutation face a much greater chance of developing breast and / or ovarian cancers. More than 200 mutations have been identified, three of which are typical to Ashkenazi Jews. There is a 2.5% risk of carrying this mutation.


1 in 40

Ashkenazi Jews – men and women – that carry a BRCA gene mutation


Ashkenazi Jewish women that are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US who have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation

1 in 800

People in the general population that have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation


Jewish male breast cancer cases that carry the germline BRCA mutation


The average woman in the United States has about a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer over a 90-year life span

15% to 40%

Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a lifetime risk of 15 to 40 percent for developing ovarian cancer


The 5-year survival rate for relatives of carriers of BRCA1 mutations

Is the Cost of Cancer Medication Worthwhile?



Is the Cost of Cancer Medication Worthwhile?

Rabin Medical Center’s Dr. Daniel Goldstein explores the rising price of cancer medications and creates an equation to see if the cost is in fact justified.

Dr. Goldstein is at the forefront of the fight between oncologists and pharmaceutical companies with research that will help determine if the price of specific medications are in fact worthwhile. Dr. Goldstein explains “as a doctor, my main responsibility is to the patient. I must do anything in my power to assist him, including explaining a medication’s usefulness, side effects, how much he will be required to pay for it from his own pocket, will it extend his life expectancy or cure him, etc.”

At the start of his career Dr. Goldstein’s work at the World Health Organization. Being exposed to medicine in the third world, and the difficulty of health care systems to adapt budgets to needs and costs led Goldstein to his current research about the relationship between the cost of cancer medications and their benefits.

Dr. Goldstein shares, “we developed a framework on which we built a model to examine the medications.” He further explains, “We examine the benefit of each medication, its survival rates, cost of the number of cycles that are required in order to save lives, and the side effects costs as well as the costs of treating it. We use very complex modeling and calculation techniques which eventually say how much it costs to extend the patient’s life in one quality year of life (QALY).”

Dr. Goldstein is heading the challenge of oncologists to force the pharmaceutical companies to adapt the outrageous prices of cancer medication according to the benefit they produce. This important research, is not merely a guideline to patients, but also to the doctors treating them, as they reach the decision whether it is worthwhile to purchase a specific medication. The rising cost of cancer medications are priced so high that many families battling cancer declare bankruptcy. Dr. Goldstein shares “I think that in the recent years the pharmaceutical companies priced the medications quite wildly and managed to avoid responsibility. If they have an amazing medication, a lifesaving one, then we should pay a high price for it because we want to incentivize the industry to develop great inventions. But we should not pay a high price for a medication with a small benefit. The prices of cancer medications are rising regardless of their benefit“.

The American Association for Clinical Oncology has awarded Dr. Goldstein four exclusive awards for his research on providing a numerical basis in the fight of American oncologists in the costs of medications.

Israel’s Rabin Medical Center is home to Dr. Goldstein’s research at the Davidoff Cancer Center, the largest most sophisticated facility in the Middle East for treating malignant diseases, treating 16% of cancer patients in Israel.

For more information on the Davidoff Cancer Center at Rabin Medical Center click HERE or register your support HERE.