Thursday, May 16, 2013

Was Angelina Jolie Nuts to Have Her Breasts Removed?

Probably not in her special case. WSJ has the numbers:
In an essay in the New York Times that drew wide attention, the 37-year-old actress said she had her breasts removed earlier this year after testing positive for a mutation in what is called the BRCA1 gene. Ms. Jolie had the test because her mother died at age 56 after a decadelong battle with cancer.

Every year, about 232,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 die from the disease. The National Cancer Institute says that mutations in the two BRCA genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, account for less than 10% of all breast cancers. They also account for about 15% of ovarian cancers.

However, women who have one or both mutations have about a 60% risk of breast cancer during their lifetimes, compared with 12% for women without such mutations, according to the NCI. Women with a BRCA mutation are also likely to develop the disease at a younger age and are more likely to get it in both breasts. Some studies put the risk as high as 87%, the figure Ms. Jolie cited as leading to her decision.

For all women, the average lifetime risk of getting ovarian cancer is 1.5%. That rises to between 40% and 60% with a BRCA1 mutation, and to between 16% and 27% with BRCA2.[...]

"These are single, rare gene mutations that most people don't have," said Marisa Weiss, director of breast health oncology at Lankenau Medical Center near Philadelphia and founder of Some women who hear about Ms. Jolie's case might feel they should get the test, she says, "but the reality is that only a small percentage of women actually qualify for it, based on the guidelines."

Women with the mutations who choose to have both breasts removed protectively reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by about 90%, or down to a 5% lifetime risk, since some breast tissue remains. Women who have the mutations and opt to remove just the ovaries before menopause cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 50%.

A Stanford University study published last year based on a computer simulation estimated that removing both breasts and ovaries after a positive BRCA test results in gains of life expectancy of up to 10.3 years for BRCA1 and 4.4 years for BRCA2 mutation carriers.

The entire article is here.


  1. She was very smart to do it. If you have the breast cancer gene there is a very high chance of getting cancer. She wants to be around to see her kids grow up unlike her mother who died in her 40s.

  2. If anything what this shows is how ignorant the public is about health and nutrition. One's gene's (in her case it's the BRCA gene) don't express themselves by chance. They express themselves because one's creates the environmental conditions (i.e. through nutrition, work and family life choices meaning levels of stress) that causes it to turn on and express itself.

    In the case of Angelina Jolie, there is a wide array of nutritional choices as well as supplements she can take to reduce her chances of having breast cancer down to almost nothing. Note the BRACA-1, BRACA-2 and ATM genes relates to the body's ability to repair DNA. Eating seared red meats, foods containing nitrites which in the stomach form carcinogenic compounds called nitrosaomines, eating pan cooked or grilled red meats or drinking alcohol daily will significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer, while eating combination of healthy green and yellow vegetables neutralises compounds like nitrosaomines significantly reducing the one's risk.

    Specifically in relation to the people such as Angelina Jolie with the mutated repair gene, nutrition (i.e. flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chinese cabbage, celery, turnip greens, spinach, kale and parsley and extra-virgin olive oil) and supplements such as Vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, quercetin, ginko biloba, resveratrol, curcumin, glutathione, and alpha-lipoic acids all function as important protectors of DNA while folate, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6 and niacinamide are key vitamins for repairing DNA. They are well known to reduce cancer risk in humans. Finally exercise is extremely import as well in reducing the risk of cancer in general as well as breast cancer specifically.

    Curious that this news of Angelina Jolie takes place while the supreme court is deciding on whether to allow for human genes (specifically the BRACA gene) to be patented...

  3. How is not dying female oppression? Is it more noble to die with your breasts intact or to live without them?
    In my opinion, this is a major feminist move. Shes saying that she, AS A PERSON is more valuable than the breasts she had. This is obviously true in the case of all women, but from the reactions shes getting it prove some people still see Angelina's beasts are more valuable than HER. Which is horrifying. Shes saying that with or without breasts, she is a person and has value. I applaud her, may she stay healthy all her life.