Women who carry the 'Jolie gene' have the same chances of survival as other women with breast tumours, finds study
- A mutated BRCA gene increases chance of getting breast cancer from 12 to 90%
- Angelina Jolie famously carried the gene and had her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce her risk, after losing her mother to cancer
- Research from the University of Southampton, concludes that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more dangerous or aggressive than any other cancer
Women who carry a dangerous cancer gene have the same survival chances as other women with breast tumours, researchers have found.
Having a mutated BRCA gene - as famously carried by Angelina Jolie - dramatically increases the chance a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, from 12 per cent to 90 per cent.
But UK scientists have now found that while the chance of getting cancer rises, the chance of dying with that cancer does not increase.
The research, led by the University of Southampton, concludes that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more dangerous or aggressive than any other form of the disease.
Having a mutated BRCA gene - as famously carried by Angelina Jolie - dramatically increases the chance a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, from 12 per cent to 90 per cent
The findings could influence the way doctors treat the disease.
Until now most women with the gene mutation have undergone radical surgery to remove both breasts as soon as the cancer is spotted, as doctors believed the cancer was very aggressive.
That could now change, as the study has shown less invasive ‘breast conserving’ surgery which simply removes the tumour is just as safe.
The study of 2,700 women found women with a mutated BRCA gene had a 97 per cent chance of surviving two years after diagnosis, compared to 96.6 per cent for other breast cancer patients.
The findings, published in the Lancet Oncology journal, showed women with the BRCA-mutation also had an 83.8 per cent of surviving five years and 73.4 per cent chance of surviving ten years, compared to other women who had an 85 per cent five-year survival rate and 70.1 per cent ten-year survival chance.
Between one in 800 and one in 1,000 women carry a BRCA gene mutation, which also raises the risk of ovarian cancer.
Miss Jolie, 42, famously chose to have her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce her cancer risk, after her mother died of ovarian cancer aged just 56.
Women who are diagnosed with cancer could be spared aggressive surgery.
But it is unlikely to affect the many women, like Miss Jolie, who choose to have surgery as a precaution when they find out they carry the mutated gene, in order to slash their chance of being diagnosed with cancer in the first place.
Miss Jolie, 42, famously chose to have her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce her cancer risk, after her mother died of ovarian cancer aged just 56
Referrals for genetic testing doubled in Britain in the two months after Miss Jolie announced she underwent the first of her procedures in 2013.
Researcher Professor Diana Eccles, of the University of Southampton, said: ‘Our study is the largest of its kind, and our findings suggest that younger women with breast cancer who have a BRCA mutation have similar survival to women who do not carry the mutation after receiving treatment.
‘Women diagnosed with early breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation are often offered double mastectomies soon after their diagnosis or chemotherapy treatment, however, our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment.
‘In the longer term, risk-reducing surgery should be discussed as an option for BRCA1 mutation carriers in particular, to minimise their future risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer.
5 DISCOVERIES THAT COULD SAVE LIVES
THE MOST DANGEROUS GENES:
BRCA1 – Led Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy because of her risk of breast cancer. Affects one in 800 women, up to 70 per cent increased risk.
BRCA2 – Mutations prevent DNA from repairing itself properly, leading to breast cancer. Affects one in 500 women, up to 70 per cent increased risk.
PALB2 – Works similarly to the BRCA genes. Affects one in 1,000 women. Around 40 per cent increased risk.
THE NEWEST REVELATIONS:
KLHDC7A – Discovered for the first time, with more research needed on how it causes breast cancer. Affects three-quarters of women. Around 6 per cent increased risk.
MCM8 – Also associated with early menopause. Affects one in nine women, with around 10 per cent increased risk.
‘Decisions about timing of additional surgery to reduce future cancer risks should take into account patient prognosis after their first cancer, and their personal preferences.’
The study involved 127 hospitals across the UK and included 2,733 women aged 18 to 40 who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time.
Some 89 per cent underwent chemotherapy. Half had breast-conserving surgery, half had a full mastectomy and less than 1 per cent had no breast surgery.
Consultant breast surgeon Fiona MacNeill, of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, said: ‘This is an important large prospective national study.
‘This study can reassure young women with breast cancer ... that breast conservation with radiotherapy is a safe option in the first decade after diagnosis and double mastectomy is not essential or mandatory at initial treatment.
‘In view of this, younger women with breast cancer can take time to discuss whether radical breast surgery is the right choice for them as part of a longer-term risk reducing strategy.’
Katherine Woods of the Breast Cancer Now charity said: ‘Coming somewhat as a surprise, this crucial new knowledge could enable many patients to make even more informed choices regarding their treatment.
‘In particular, being able to give some women with triple negative breast cancer the choice to delay a risk-reducing mastectomy would allow them to take back control of a major part of their treatment and offer them more time to recover from their initial therapy.
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