Potential excess mortality in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers beyond breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers, and melanoma

PLoS One. 2009;4(3):e4812. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004812. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Background: Although the increase in risk of developing breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers has been studied extensively, its impact on mortality is not well quantified. Further, possible effect of BRCA mutations on non-cancer mortality risk has not been examined.

Methodology/principal findings: Using mortality data from the relatives of 5,287 genotyped participants, of whom 120 carried a BRCA Ashkenazi Jewish founder mutation, in a community-based study of the Ashkenazi Jewish population in the Washington D.C area, we examined the association between the three Ashkenazi BRCA founder mutations and risk of overall and non-cancer mortality. To examine risks beyond the established effects of these mutations, we analyzed the data excluding both deaths and follow-up times after reported diagnosis of melanoma and cancer of the breast, ovary, prostate, and pancreas. Using an extension of the kin-cohort method that accounts for informative censoring, we estimated that, in the absence of breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and melanoma, female carriers had a life expectancy that was 6.8 years lower (95% CI: 1.2-10.5) than non-carriers. In male mutation carriers, the reduction in life expectancy, in the absence of prostate and pancreatic cancers and melanoma, was 3.7 (95% CI: -0.4, 6.8) years. When deaths and follow-up times after any cancer diagnosis were excluded, the difference in life expectancy was 5.7 years for women (95% CI: -0.1, 10.4) and 3.7 years for men (95% CI: -0.4, 6.9). An overall test of association for men and women together showed a statistically significant association between BRCA1/2 mutations and increased non-cancer mortality (p = 0.024).

Conclusions/significance: These findings suggest that there may be unknown effects of BRCA1/2 mutations on non-neoplastic diseases that cause death at older ages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / mortality
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • District of Columbia / epidemiology
  • Europe / ethnology
  • Female
  • Founder Effect
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Jews / genetics
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Mortality* / ethnology
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics