I cannot assume to judge anyone else’s health decisions. Angelina lived through her mother’s treatment and eventual death from ovarian cancer, and now Ms. Jolie has 6 children herself to consider. I applaud her for her pro-activity. It is just that these genetic mutations cause potential increases in risk for a wide number of cancers, and cutting out each organ at risk is not plausible. So I certainly hope that Ms. Jolie is being guided by her physicians to look at other proactive measures, such as boosting ER beta signaling which helps keep cells normal and prevents them from turning into cancer cells, and 2 methyoxestradiol, a new anti-estrogen that acts as an anti-carcinogenic and anti-proliferative protective factor which can now be taken as a protective medication or part of an avant-garde replacement therapy.
BRCA gene abnormalities are linked to increased risk of many cancers, not just breast or ovarian. These genes are tumor suppressor genes. When they are mutated, the body cannot fight cancer off as well as folks that do not have these genetic mutations.
BRCA genes – breast and ovaries
The BRCA1 gene produces a protein called breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein, which repairs DNA. If DNA can’t be repaired then the risk of cancer increases. Genetic mutations in this gene lead to an increased risk of breast cancer as part of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome. Mutations in BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are not common and account for 5-10% of breast cancer cases.
Women with harmful mutations in either BRCA1 or BRCA2 have 5 times increased risk of breast cancer and 10-30 times increased risk of ovarian cancer compared to women without these markers. Women with these markers usually get cancer earlier and it can be more aggressive.
These genes change the rules.
An average risk woman decreases her risk of getting breast cancer by having her first child at a younger age, having more children than average, and breastfeeding for more than one year. In BRCA mutation carriers having children seems to provide little or some protection against breast cancer for women with BRCA1 mutations, but instead increases the risk of breast cancer for women with BRCA2 mutations.
The big issue is that these genes increase the risk of many types of cancers, not just breast and ovarian. BRCA mutations have been linked with increased risk of developing any kind of invasive cancer, such as stomach, pancreatic, prostate and colon cancer.
A BRCA1 mutation approximately doubles or triples the lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer. A BRCA2 mutation triples to quintuples it.
BRCA2 mutation carriers have approximately double or triple the risk of developing dangerous melanoma. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are strongly linked to blood cancers such as various leukemia’s and lymphomas.
Pro-activity on all levels
So the issue is not just removing organs, it’s about aggressive proactivity on a number of levels. I am sure with having the best advice available, as Angelina and Brad must have, they will use all the guns they can, which should include the best of integrative medicine.
In the estrogen chapter in my book Safe Hormones, Smart Women I discuss research showing how some women with the BRCA genes were protected by a history of hormone replacement, close to the protection of some of the prophylactic surgeries, as wild as that sounds. We now believe that safe, monitored, sensible bioidentical hormone replacement boosts certain cancer protective factors, such as ER beta and 2 hydroxyestrogen and 2 methoxyestrogen.
Since Ms. Jolie still, even after the surgeries, has an approximately remaining 5% risk of cancers of the breast and ovaries, protective actions such as iodine replacement (monitored by a doc in the know) along with flaxseeds in the appropriate dosages may be helpful. Iodine inhibits neoplastic changes in breast cells and combines with the arachidonic acid in flaxseeds to form iodolactones, which directly kill breast cancer and ovarian cancer cells.
I wish Angelina and Brad and their family all my best!