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The British army recently faced backlash for almost rejecting a 17-year-old girl, Carys Holmes, from joining due to her family history of breast cancer. Holmes was initially told she couldn’t join because of her “extensive” family history of the disease, which includes her mother and aunt who have both been affected by breast cancer. Despite her family’s genetic predisposition to the disease, Holmes has not been tested for the gene mutation known as BRCA1, which significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Holmes tried to appeal the decision by highlighting her low risk of developing breast cancer before the age of 30, but her appeal was rejected. Women who inherit the BRCA1 gene have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to the general population. While having the gene doesn’t guarantee someone will develop breast cancer, women like Holmes can take preventative measures to lower their risk.

The decision to reject Holmes based on her family history of breast cancer has raised concerns about discrimination and human rights violations. The Army’s recruitment literature doesn’t explicitly mention breast cancer risk as a disqualifying factor, but it does allow for rejection based on some family-linked disorders. However, the rejection of Holmes, whose case has generated outrage in the UK, was deemed unusual and potentially discriminatory by legal experts.

Men can also develop breast cancer, albeit at a much lower rate than women with the BRCA1 mutation. Despite the increased risk, which was found to be 0.4% by age 80 in a recent study, men are also affected by the gene mutation. Legal experts have criticized the Army’s decision as potentially unlawful and discriminatory, especially considering the low overall risk of breast cancer among men and the potential violation of human rights.

Following widespread criticism and media attention, the Army reviewed Holmes’s case and acknowledged that a mistake had been made in rejecting her application. They clarified that candidates with the BRCA1 gene would not automatically be excluded from joining the Army. Holmes, who had already passed her fitness and cognitive tests, is now set to start basic training in October. Her case serves as a reminder of the importance of careful consideration and fairness in recruitment processes, especially when health-related factors are involved.

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