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Hadassah Responds to the NYTimes article

To the Editor,

In her important November 26 article, "In Israel, a Push to Screen for Cancer Gene Leaves Many Conflicted," Roni Caryn Rabin delves into a complicated subject; however she fails to fully give credit where credit is due. In the article, Rabin mentions studies conducted by the International Journal of Cancer and the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, but neglects to mention the admirable work done by other organizations like Hadassah Medical Organization. Rabin dutifully informs readers that 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women carry a harmful genetic mutation, compared to less than one in 100 women generally. While this statistic is indeed accurate, it is something that was uncovered by Hadassah in 1996.

Immediately following the discovery of BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, the inherited gene mutations that can show a predisposition to breast or ovarian cancer, the Hadassah Medical Organization joined with researchers at the National Institutes of Health to publish the groundbreaking dominant genetic research on BRCA 1 mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish community. One of the findings was in fact that Ashkenazi women were much more likely than others to carry the BRCA mutation. And subsequently HMO developed a new, easier blood test to detect the presence of these genes.

Rabin also mentions that several Jewish organizations have recently undertaken campaigns to raise awareness about the heightened risk in Ashkenazi Jews, but none greater than Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America's education campaigns across the US.

Ultimately, the progress made by many in regard to the BRCA mutations and its awareness is commendable – as is the New York Times' coverage. But all of the researchers, as well as the research itself, deserve some credit.

Marcie Natan
Hadassah National President


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