Canadian Women Encouraged to “Know Your Genes”

Ovarian Cancer Canada's "Know Your Genes" Initiative Focuses on the Role of Genetics in Ovarian Cancer and the Need for Greater Awareness

MISSISSAUGA, ON, March 17, 2016 /CNW/ – A new initiative from Ovarian Cancer Canada in partnership with AstraZeneca Canada is tapping into fashion, and specifically jean fabric, to kick-start an important public conversation about the role of genetics in ovarian cancer. The Know Your Genes awareness initiative aims to educate women about the role of the BRCA gene in ovarian cancer and encourage women to speak to their doctor about their potential risk.

Ovarian cancer is the most fatal women's cancer. Every year, 2,800 Canadian women are diagnosed with this disease1, meaning one woman is diagnosed every three hours in this country. Fifty-five per cent of those women will die within five years as the disease is often diagnosed at an advanced stage.2 As many as a quarter of ovarian cancer cases are linked to genes, with the majority of those due to BRCA mutations.3

"All women are at risk of ovarian cancer, but a woman's family history and genetic makeup can make her more susceptible than others, particularly if there's a history of a BRCA mutation in the family," says Elisabeth Baugh, CEO, Ovarian Cancer Canada. "With this initiative, we want to empower women to look into their family history to determine if they have potential risk factors, and discuss with their doctor whether genetic testing is appropriate for them."

The "Gene Collection"

To launch the Know Your Genes initiative, Ovarian Cancer Canada has partnered with renowned Canadian fashion designer, David Dixon, who unveiled a unique new collection at Toronto Fashion Week on March 16, 2016 that was inspired by the role of genes in ovarian cancer. Dixon created the Gene Collection by incorporating jean fabric into his classic designs to encourage women to learn more about their genes.

"I am thrilled to have created the Gene Collection and to be collaborating with Ovarian Cancer Canada as part of this important new awareness initiative," says David Dixon, Fashion Designer.  "A lifelong passion for strong, healthy and confident women has always served as inspiration for my work. Through this collection, I hope to capture the attention of Canadian women and inspire them to learn more about their genetics and ovarian cancer. With knowledge, comes power, which I hope can help to reduce the number of women being lost to this devastating disease."

The Effect of Genes on Ovarian Cancer

Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, known as tumour suppressors because they are responsible for repairing damaged DNA.4Mutations of these genes make them ineffective at repairing DNA, and they have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.5

Mutations of either BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can be passed on from either the mother or father, and increase a woman's risk for developing ovarian cancer by as much as 60 per cent in the case of BRCA16, and up to 20 per cent in that of BRCA2.7

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect and often misdiagnosed because its symptoms can signal a variety of conditions.8 Although there is currently no reliable screening test or vaccine to prevent the disease9, progress is being made and there is reason for hope in prevention and treatment.

"With ongoing research, we now know more about ovarian cancer than ever before," says Dr. Laurie Elit, MD, Gynecologic Oncology Division Head, Professor in Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, McMaster University. "Genetic testing can allow women to determine whether increased surveillance and preventive action are viable options based on their circumstances. And, for women already diagnosed with ovarian cancer, new treatments are being developed which target BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, helping us to fight the disease more effectively. This is a giant step forward."

Be in the Know About Your Risk of Ovarian Cancer

It is important to remember that genes are not the only factor that can potentially increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. Risk is also increased in women who are over 50 years of age10; have a family history of ovarian, breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer11; and/or are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.12 Women with any of these risk factors should speak to their doctor, and for more information. 

About Ovarian Cancer Canada

Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only registered Canadian charity solely dedicated to overcoming ovarian cancer. The organization provides leadership by supporting women and families living with the disease, raising awareness among the general public and health care professionals, and funding research into prevention, improved treatments, and ultimately a cure. For information,