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Angelina Jolie opts to remove breasts to reduce cancer risk, raise awareness

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Actress Angelina Jolie's decision to remove both of her breast was prompted by two things, according to the New York Times, her family's history and the results of her genetic testing.

Jolie carries a mutated version of the BRCA 1 gene, one of the most common causes of heredity breast and ovarian cancers.

"Collectively both BRCA1 and BRCA2 carry a lifelong risk for breast cancer of about 57%. BRCA1 tends to have a higher risk by the age of 70 than BRCA2.

‘It can reach up to 87%, 85%-87%. So that is a fairly high risk of breast cancer that you need to do something about," said Oncologist Dr. Ayla Kessler with the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center.

Kessler says there are no specific guidelines for people once they discover a mutation, although, a rigorous screening regiment or a prophylactic mastectomy, like what Jolie opted for, can reduce a patient's risk by up to 90%.

Now while a cheek swab or blood test is all it takes to determine if patients carry the mutated genes, doctors say it's not for everyone.

The general population has about a 1% chance of carrying it and patients with breast cancer or patients, with a strong family history have about a 10% chance of carrying the mutated gene.

"So the population you are looking at that carry the mutation are obviously very small, and I think it is well worth it to be preemptive with them and try and screen them before the damage is done and they develop cancer," Kessler said.

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