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Meet an Instructor: Riley Rose

The Rivkin Center’s education program provides free ovarian and breast health education parties (workshops). Instructors educate women about their breast and ovarian health and cancer risks.

Say hello to Riley Rose, one of our instructors and former University of California, Berkeley campus ambassador.


Where are you from?

I am from sunny Orange County, California! I am a born and raised Southern California girl.

What should people know about you? 

I recently just graduated this past spring (May 2020) from the University of California, Berkeley! At Berkeley I received my Bachelor’s in Integrative Biology, with an emphasis in Human Physiology. Through my major, I had the privilege of completing an Honors Senior Thesis where I studied the effects that stress has on female fertility. I am currently in a gap year where I have moved back home–yay for home cooked meals–and I serve as a Rivkin Instructor, tutor high-school students, and work for a family medicine physician. In August, I will be attending medical school, and I cannot wait!

What do you do for fun? 

I love to be outdoors! It’s nice to get outside since everything seems to be via Zoom nowadays! I love to golf, ski, play pickleball and tennis, roller blade, and go to the beach. At night you can find me curled up watching a Stand-Up special on Netflix (Nikki Glaser is my fave), watching something on Bravo, or begging my parents to play some sort of board or card game with me–I’m competitive and like to play games, what can I say.

What is your favorite mantra?  

“Knowledge is Power”– When I was 17 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). I have always wanted to have children. Therefore, when my doctor told me that infertility could be a potential side effect of my PCOS my world turned upside down. I dove into research–I wanted to learn everything I could possibly do to live the healthiest life to set myself up for success with pregnancy later down the road. I discovered that the more I learned about my PCOS, the less scared I became. Understanding my disease empowered me. Understanding the mechanisms behind why my body behaves differently, and what I can do to treat it, made me feel like I had power over my PCOS–my PCOS didn’t control me. With that life experience, I adopted the mantra of “Knowledge is Power” and repeat it to myself every day. The more we know about things that frighten us, the more power we have to combat that fear. I am so thankful that I get to live out my mantra every time I instruct a Rivkin Party. I’m incredibly passionate about Rivkin’s mission to teach individuals about Breast and Ovarian Cancer in a fun, frank, and fear-free way, and I am so thankful that I get to be a part of it!

Where do you go to find inspiration?  

Rivkin’s INCREDIBLE survivors! I am so fortunate to be a part of an organization that is filled with so many incredible individuals. You can’t work for a Breast & Ovarian Cancer non-profit and not be a good human–it’s just impossible. Each of our survivors has such a unique story, and I have had the privilege of hearing so many of them. They all went through the trials and tribulations of cancer, but did it like champions. Their passion to share their story and educate others on their experience is incredibly inspiring to me. I am so lucky to have these amazing women in my life!

Where’s your happy place?  

My happy place is Havasu Palms. For most of you who are probably unfamiliar with the magical place, it is a small, isolated trailer park on Lake Havasu. My family has a place out there and we have been going there for as long as I can remember. My favorite childhood memories are at The Palms. In the wintertime my family likes to off-road through the desert terrain, and during the summer and springtime we spend all our time in the water. It’s a no-frills kind of place, and that is what I love about it so much. You forget cellphones exist out there, and your biggest problem is deciding whether you want to spend your day sunbathing on the dock or wakeboarding behind the boat. I’ve grown up out there, and some of my closest friends also have places out there. It holds a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait for it to get warm again so I can put on my bathing suit and jump in the lake!


How long have you been involved with the Rivkin Center?

I joined the Rivkin team in December of 2018 as a Rivkin Campus Ambassador. I was a campus ambassador my Junior and Senior year of college and I loved it! After graduation, I became a Rivkin Education Instructor. 

What inspired you to get involved?  

I attended a Rivkin Party as an attendee when I worked for Berkeley’s Student Health Center. From the moment I heard Rivkin’s mission, I knew I NEEDED to become involved. With my passion for Women’s Health and Health Education, I feel like I finally found an organization that was speaking my language! I am forever grateful to that first Rivkin party for introducing me to Rivkin, as it has become such a special part of my life

What is the most important thing you want attendees to learn at a Rivkin EDU party?

Well in a perfect world–EVERYTHING! We have so much incredible educational content. But, if I were to pick, the most important thing I want attendees to learn at a RIvkin EDU Party would be the importance of the phrase “Know Your Body.” I truly believe that knowing your body is the key to early detection–plus it is empowering!! Everyone has a different normal, no two bodies are the same. Therefore, knowing your normal helps you keep an eye out for anything that might be different. The quicker you are able to notice a change, the quicker you can do something about it! 

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Talk to your Family

Talking to your family and identifying cancer in your family tree can be a good indicator of your health risks. Download our Family Tree Worksheet here.  Be sure to include yourself, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Get Educated

Know your body and be proactive about your health. Learn about your breast and ovarian health. Learn about the risk factors and signs & symptoms for breast and ovarian cancer.

Trusted Healthcare Provider

Having a relationship with a health care provider you know and trust is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your health care. Click here to find a provider

Higher Risk in the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

In the general population, around 1 in 400 people carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you have a BRCA mutation then there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your children, whether they are boys or girls. It’s important to note that these mutations significantly increase risk, but are not a guarantee a person will get cancer.

Why is the Ashkenazi Jewish population at higher risk?

Over 90% of the BRCA mutations found in the Jewish community are one of three “founder mutations”. A founder mutation is a specific gene mutation in a population that was founded by a small group of ancestors that were geographically or culturally isolated. Because the population was isolated, the rate of founder mutations in descendants is much higher than it would be if the population were larger and co-mingling with more genetically diverse populations. A large expansion in the population caused the current high frequency of the mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, the chance of carrying a BRCA gene mutation compared to the general population is increased tenfold. BRCA mutations can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side, and may be associated with any of the following cancers:
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer, fallopian tube, peritoneal cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colon Cancer

Ready to take action? Knowledge is power. Take this short quiz to be proactive about your health.

Genes 101

Our bodies are made of many tiny building blocks called cells. Our cells contain a copy of our genome – all of the DNA genetic code we inherited from our parents. Our genome is organized into 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from mom and 23 from dad. Each chromosome has hundreds or thousands of genes. Each gene has the instructions to make a protein that may control the structure or function of cells, can determine many things including how tall we are or the color of our eyes. Genes also contain instructions for many things inside of us that we cannot see, such as how our bones are formed or how our heart works. Each gene is made up of molecules called nucleic acids (A, T, C, and G). The specific sequence of the nucleic acids holds the instructions that control all the components and their functions in cells.

If the DNA sequence is changed, like a spelling mistake, the instructions may not make sense. The technical term for this change is “mutation,” meaning there is a change to the usual genetic code that may change the instructions stored in the gene. A mutation in a gene that repairs DNA damage or controls cell growth can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Sporadic vs Hereditary Cancers:

Ovarian and breast cancer can be either sporadic or hereditary. Sporadic cancers make up the vast majority (85-90%) of ovarian and breast cancers and are not associated with family history of either cancer or inherited cancer-associated mutations. Sporadic cancers arise from genetic mutations acquired in some cells of the body by events part of normal metabolism and environmental factors. This type of cancer can happen to anyone. Most acquired gene mutations are not shared among relatives or passed on to children.

Hereditary (also known as inherited, or familial) cancers are those that occur due to genetic mutations that are inherited from mom or dad. Other blood relatives may also share these same gene mutations. Parents give one copy of each gene to their children. If a parent has a genetic mutation in a gene, each of their children have a 50% chance of inheriting that mutation. Therefore, even in families with hereditary cancer, not all family members inherit the mutation that is causing cancer, and their risk of cancer is similar to the average person in the general population. Individuals who are suspected to have a family history with high incidence of ovarian, breast, and other cancers may be offered genetic testing to try to find the specific genetic mutation that may put them at risk. Importantly, individuals who do not have a known genetic mutation but have high incidence of ovarian, breast, or other cancers in their families are still considered at higher risk for developing those cancers.

Hereditary cancers often occur at an earlier age than the sporadic form of the same cancer, so experts often recommend starting cancer screening at a younger age for individuals at high risk for hereditary cancer. Hereditary cancers can also be more aggressive than the sporadic form of the same cancer. Individuals who have inherited a gene mutation may be at a higher risk for more than one type of cancer.

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2: Most Common hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

The genes that are most commonly involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes are named for their link to breast (BR) cancer (CA), but they are also linked to ovarian cancer risk as well as other cancers. Both women and men can inherit mutations in these HBOC genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes that have a usual role in our body of providing instructions on repairing DNA damage and preventing cancer. When a family has an inherited mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, this leads to an increase in cancer risk. Not every man or woman who has inherited a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene will develop cancer, but people who have a mutation do have a significanlty increased chance of developing cancer, particularly cancer of the breasts or ovaries.

While breast and ovarian cancers are the most common cancers diagnosed in people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, the risk of some other cancers is also increased. Men with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a higher risk of early-onset prostate cancer than men without mutations in either gene. Other cancers seen at increased rates, particularly in individuals with BRCA2 mutations, include pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Researchers are continuing to find new genes that are involved in hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer so it is important to follow up with a genetic counselor on a regular basis if hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is likely in your family.

Talk to your family about your health history and take the Assess Your Risk quiz here