Association between BRCA1 mutations and ratio of female to male births in offspring of families with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both

JAMA. 2003 Aug 20;290(7):929-31. doi: 10.1001/jama.290.7.929.


Context: Defects in X-chromosome inactivation distort sex ratio in mice. The BRCA1 gene is also involved in X-chromosome inactivation, suggesting the possibility that some sex-ratio distortion may be associated with BRCA1-related human cancer syndromes.

Objective: To determine whether BRCA1 mutations are associated with distortion of the sex ratio of births in families with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both.

Design and setting: Analysis of germline mutations in participants from Spain who had been screened for BRCA between 1998 and 2002.

Participants: Sixty-eight families with at least 3 breast cancer cases or ovarian cancer cases, or both types of cancer in 2 generations (germline mutations: BRCA1, n = 17; BRCA2, n = 15; and BRCA unrelated, n = 36). An average of 4 relatives per family were tested for the corresponding BRCA mutation.

Main outcome measure: Male and female births registered in breast and/or ovarian pedigrees tested for the presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations.

Results: Of BRCA1-related breast and/or ovarian cancer pedigrees, there was a 2-fold excess of female births (218 female vs 109 male births). Of BRCA2-related or BRCA-unrelated breast and/or ovarian cancer pedigrees, there was not an excess of female births (175 female/150 male and 344 female/315 male, respectively). Of 327 BRCA1 births, 218 (67%) were female births compared with 54% among BRCA2 pedigrees (175/327; P<.001) and 52% among BRCA-unrelated pedigrees (344/659; P<.001). Female births increased in the offspring of BRCA1 carriers compared with BRCA2 carriers (67% vs 52%; P =.004).

Conclusion: In these families with breast and/or ovarian cancer, mutations in BRCA1 but not BRCA2 were associated with a sex ratio skewed against male births.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Ratio*