BRCA Gene Mutations


Despite Angelina, People Misunderstand Breast Cancer Risk; Look Up Your Risk Online

Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy after genetic testing has prompted a discussion about which other tests should be covered. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In one of the bigger stories this year, actress Angelina Jolie caught both celebrity-watchers and health advocates off guard in May when she revealed in a New York Times op-ed that she had had a double mastectomy. She did this, she explained, because she carried a rare gene mutation that increased her likelihood of developing breast cancer to 87 percent.

Jolie’s mother died of breast cancer at 56. Jolie was careful to explain why her situation was unusual. “Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation,” she wrote. About 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are related to a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation.

But a new study shows that while her story certainly got a lot of attention, it unfortunately didn’t do much to increase people’s understanding of actual breast cancer risk. Continue reading