Actress Angelina Jolie’s decision on Tuesday to go public about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy after learning of her high risk of getting breast cancer has sparked widespread chatter throughout the media world.
“Angelina Jolie has done a real service for women around the world,” Arthur Caplan, a New York University professor wrote in an opinion piece at CNN.
“Jolie’s Disclosure Highlights a Breast Cancer Dilemma” was the headline in a New York Times article about her story.
Jolie reportedly made the decision after undergoing genetic testing to determine susceptibility to breast cancer. Perhaps the news will make more women, especially African Americans, aware of the testing, although, as the Times points out, there is some debate about it.
A recent study found that African-American women not diagnosed with breast cancer were 49 percent less likely than white women to get genetic testing for gene abnormalities, despite recommendations from their doctors, according to Breastcancer.
On average, African American women have about the same risk of having an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene as white women. But research continues to show that non-white women are less likely than white women to have genetic testing.
The risk of having an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is higher in women diagnosed with breast cancer who:
1. have family history of ovarian or breast cancer
2. were diagnosed before age 45
3. have a family member who was diagnosed with breast cancer younger than 45
4. are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
5. are African American and diagnosed younger than age 35
Abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for about 10% of all breast cancers. Women who have an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have up to an 85% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. Their risk for ovarian cancer is also higher.