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Angelina Jolie's mastectomy shines spotlight on oophorectomy for ovarian cancer

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A new study says women who are carriers of the BRCA1 gene can reduce their ovarian-cancer risks by 80% by getting an oophorectomy by age 35.

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The study, which was led by Dr. Steven Narod of the University of Toronto, was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Feb. 24.

Dr. Narod recommends that women with the inherited BRCA1 gene mutation (which predisposes them to ovarian and breast cancer) get an oophorectomy, or ovary-removal surgery, by age 35. Doing so can cut their risk of ovarian cancer by 80% and reduce their mortality risk by 70%.

In February 2013, Angelina Jolie underwent a preventive double mastectomy after genetic tests revealed she had an 87% risk of getting breast cancer and a 50% chance of contracting ovarian cancer. As a result of her mastectomy, Jolie's breast-cancer risk has dropped to under 5%.

Jolie said she will get an oophorectomy, but didn't elaborate further. The oophorectomy calls for the removal of both ovaries. Removing the ovaries dramatically lowers the risk of ovarian cancer by reducing the amount of estrogen and progesterone circulating in the body. A side effect is early menopause.

Angelina said she wanted to be proactive about her health because she wants to be around to see her six children grow up. "I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she wrote in a May 2013 New York Times op-ed.

Jolie has been praised for her proactive stance since her family history indicates an extremely high cancer risk. Angelina's maternal grandmother, grandfather and uncle all died of cancer.

Angelina, who has been a United Nations goodwill ambassador since 2001, discussed how charity work has changed her life in her memoir, Notes from My Travels.

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