Risky Genes

Genetics, Breast Cancer and Jewish Identity

By Jessica Mozersky

© 2013 – Routledge

164 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138822849
pub: 2015-04-27
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415502283
pub: 2012-08-06
US Dollars$145.00

Look Inside

About the Book

Ashkenazi Jews have the highest known population risk of carrying specific mutations in the high-risk breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. So what does it mean to be told you have an increased risk of genetic breast cancer because you are of Ashkenazi Jewish origin? In a time of ever-increasing knowledge about variations in genetic disease risk among different populations, there is a pressing need for research regarding the implications of such information for members of high-risk populations.

Risky Genes provides first-hand intimate descriptions of women’s experiences of being Jewish and of being at increased risk of genetic breast cancer. It explores the impact this knowledge has on their identity and understanding of belonging to a collective. Using qualitative data from high-risk Ashkenazi women in the UK, this book elucidates the importance of biological discourses in forging Jewish self-identity and reveals the complex ways in which biological and social understandings of Jewish belonging intersect.

In Risky Genes, Jessica Mozersky reflects upon and offers new insight into the ongoing debates regarding the implications of genetic research for populations, and of new genetic knowledge for individual and collective identity. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology, anthropology, Jewish studies, medical genetics, medical ethics, religious studies, and race and ethnic studies.


'Jessica Mozersky has written a valuable monograph that crosses the immense boundary between history, social science and culture on the one hand and molecular methods, genetic mutation testing and predictive testing on the other….it details vast amounts of information about the history of Ashkenazi Jews, their culture over centuries and the medical, societal and racial discrimination they have endured.'

'I learnt much that I would have found useful in my clinical and family contacts during the last four decades.'

'Mozersky's approach throughout is valuable and most educational. She starts by telling us what she intends to do, then what she has done with the results and apt discussion, and finally she summarises and draws wise conclusions. She obviously has covered in much depth the social science, historical and molecular genetic literature.'

-Professor Sandy Raeburn, in Bionews, posted 28 Jan 2013

Table of Contents

Preface. Acknowledgements. Introduction 1. Setting the Scene: Ashkenazi Jews and Genetic Disease 2. The ‘Ashkenazi BRCA Mutations’ 3. Re-Thinking the Consequences of Medical Genetic Research 4. On Being Jewish 5. History, Memory and the BRCA Genes 6. Future Generations. Conclusion. Notes. References. Index.

About the Author

Jessica Mozersky is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Integration of Genetic Healthcare Technologies (Penn CIGHT). She received her PhD in Anthropology from the interdisciplinary Institute of Human Genetics and Health at University College London. In 2011, she was selected to be a Visiting Researcher at the Brocher Foundation in Hermance, Switzerland. She is a founding member of an international comparative social science BRCA network, and has managed international multi-centre clinical trials for BRCA carriers and women at increased genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer at University College London and King’s College London.

About the Series

Genetics and Society

The books in this series, all based on original research, explore the social, economic and ethical consequences of the new genetic sciences. The series is based in the Cesagen, one of the centres forming the ESRC’s Genomics Network (EGN), the largest UK investment in social-science research on the implications of these innovations. With a mix of research monographs, edited collections, textbooks and a major new handbook, the series is a valuable contribution to the social analysis of developing and emergent bio-technologies.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Ethics
MEDICAL / Oncology
MEDICAL / Genetics
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology of Religion
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Jewish Studies