(WTVM) - Angelina Jolie's stunning announcement that she had a preventive double mastectomy has raised both awareness and questions about the gene that led to her decision called BRCA1.
Jolie revealed that she had a double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants because she carries the gene mutation that puts her at high risk of developing breast cancer.
BRCA1 and 2 are types of tumor-suppressing genes, according to the National Cancer Institute. In normal cells, those genes help stabilize the cell's DNA and help prevent uncontrollable cell growth, but harmful mutations in BRCA genes can lead to breast or ovarian cancer.
We spoke with Dr. Tim Villegas, a local OB/GYN who says a double mastectomy can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent if you carry the gene mutation.
Dr. Villegas also says that carriers of the BRCA1 gene have a higher risk of breast cancer at a younger age than those with the BRCA2 gene mutation. He says that less than 10 percent of breast cancers in the United States are due to this mutation.
The National Cancer Institute says about 12 percent of all women will develop breast cancer sometime in their lives. For women with a harmful BRCA mutation, the risk of breast cancer is 5 times more likely at 60 percent.
A double mastectomy - like Angelina Jolie underwent - can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent if you carry the gene mutation.
Many people are applauding Jolie for going public with this and creating more awareness about the health risk.