Women who have inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) genes have substantially elevated risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer.  A study that will appear in the September 1 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that women with these inherited mutations who have had a prophylactic mastectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries) had an associated decreased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Corresponding author Timothy R. Rebbeck, PhD, Leader, Center for Cancer Genetics, Epidemiology and Risk Reduction Program at the University of Pennsylvania and Susan Domchek, MD, associate professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, and their colleagues conducted a study that looked at a large group of BRCA1/2 mutation carriers to determine reduction estimates following risk-reducing surgeries.

The results of the study reveal that the use of risk-reducing mastectomy was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer and risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy was associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

“What we want women to take away from the results of this study is that if they have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer they should talk to their family doctor about genetic testing to determine if they possess the genetic mutation.  What this study tells us is that early detection and intervention can save lives,” says Domchek.

For more information about the study, see the JAMA press release and video interview with Dr. Domchek.

For more information about evaluating and dealing with your risk of breast or ovarian cancer, see the website for the Abramson Cancer Center's Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program.


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