After Angelina Jolie revealed that she carried a breast cancer gene mutation last year, the number of women seeking genetic screening for breast cancer has surged — what some oncologists have referred to as the “Angelina Jolie” effect. Jolie carried a BRCA1 mutation and was told she had a 50 to 70 percent chance of developing breast cancer, a risk she deemed high enough to warrant having a preventive double mastectomy. Women with another infamous mutation, BRCA2, have a 40 to 60 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer and also frequently opt for preventive surgery.
Now, however, there are a host of more recently identified mutations that raise a woman’s breast cancer risk, though not as high as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which can make prevention choices much more complex. Should a woman have a preventive mastectomy if her lifetime breast cancer risk is 25 percent compared to the average woman’s risk of 12 percent?