TUESDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Hollywood film star Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday that she has undergone a double mastectomy because she carries a genetic mutation that greatly increases her risk of potentially fatal breast cancer.
She said she began the process to have both of her breasts removed in early February because she lost her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, to ovarian cancer when her mother was just 56.
Jolie, 37, revealed details of her surgery in an op-ed article in Tuesday's The New York Times. Writing about her mother's nearly 10-year-long battle with cancer, Jolie said: "She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was."
Jolie, who has six children with her companion and fellow film star Brad Pitt, said she often finds herself trying to explain to her children about the disease that killed her mother. "They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer," she wrote.
The BRCA1 and related BRCA2 genes belong to a class of human genes known as tumor suppressors. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, in normal cells, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes help to maintain the stability of a cell's genetic material -- called DNA -- and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutation of these genes has been linked to the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
An estimated 12 percent of women -- or 120 out of 1,000 -- in the general population will develop breast cancer during their lives. But in women with a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the risk of breast cancer increases dramatically. Approximately 60 per
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