A new study recommends that all women of Ashkenazi backgrounds receive routine screenings for the BRCA mutation that causes breast cancer. Professor Ephrat Levy-Lahad, Director of the Fuld Family Department of Genetics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, was the senior author of the study, which was published on Friday, September 5, 2014 in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” Until now, Ashkenazi women have only been tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes if a close blood relative developed breast or ovarian cancer, or was identified as a carrier of the gene.

University of Washington breast cancer geneticist Dr. Mary-Claire King, who discovered BRCA1, a gene that in a mutated form increases vulnerability, was also an author of the study, which was funded in part by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“This should be offered as a universal screening test,” said Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad. “We should be testing people who are still healthy at a stage when we can prevent the disease.” Many of the women identified by the researchers in Israel would never have known they were mutation carriers, if they had not received screenings as part of the study.