Population frequencies of pathogenic alleles of BRCA1 and BRCA2: analysis of 173 Danish breast cancer pedigrees using the BOADICEA model

Thorkild Terkelsen*, Lise Lotte Christensen, Deirdre Cronin Fenton, Uffe Birk Jensen, Lone Sunde, Mads Thomassen, Anne Bine Skytte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Breast and Ovarian Analysis of Disease Incidence and Carrier Estimation Algorithm (BOADICEA) calculates the probability that a woman carries a pathogenic variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2 based on her pedigree and the population frequencies of pathogenic alleles of BRCA1 (0.0006394) and BRCA2 (0.00102) in the United Kingdom (UK). BOADICEA allows the clinician to define the population frequencies of pathogenic alleles of BRCA1 and BRCA2 for other populations but only includes preset values for the Ashkenazy Jewish and Icelandic populations. Among 173 early-onset breast cancer pedigrees in Denmark, BOADICEA discriminated well between carriers and non-carriers of pathogenic variants (area under the receiver operating characteristics curve: 0.81; 95% CI 0.74–0.86) but underestimated the frequency of carriers of pathogenic variants in BRCA1 or BRCA2 as measured by the observed-to-expected ratio (O/E 1.83; 95% CI 1.18–2.84). This reflects findings from older studies of BOADICEA in UK, German, Italian, and Chinese populations, all accounting for the different calibration for different carrier probabilities. To improve the performance of BOADICEA for non-UK populations, we developed a method to derive population frequencies of pathogenic alleles of BRCA1 and BRCA2. Compared to the UK population frequencies, we estimated the Danish population frequencies of pathogenic alleles to be higher for BRCA1 (0.0015; 95% CI 0.00064–0.0034) and lower for BRCA2 (0.00052; 95% CI 0.00018–0.0017) after adjusting for the different calibration of BOADICEA for different carrier probabilities. Incorporating additional population frequencies into BOADICEA could improve its performance for non-UK populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamilial Cancer
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)381-388
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019



  • BRCA1 gene
  • BRCA2 gene
  • Breast cancer
  • Genetic testing

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