By Steven Reinberg
WEDNESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Film star Angelina Jolie will have her ovaries removed to help lower her odds for ovarian cancer, People magazine reported Wednesday.
The news comes just a day after Jolie, 37, revealed in an article published on the editorial page of The New York Times that she had undergone a double mastectomy. Jolie wrote that she made the decision after learning she carried a gene, called BRCA1, that is linked to a significantly higher risk for both breast and ovarian cancers.
Now, Jolie "is also planning to undergo surgery to remove her ovaries," an operation known as oophorectomy, according to People.
Jolie's mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56.
According to the Mayo Clinic, preventive removal of the ovaries can cut the risk of ovarian cancer in a woman with a BRCA mutation by 80 percent to 90 percent.
In the Times article, Jolie said she began the process to have both of her breasts removed in early February.
Writing about her mother's nearly 10-year-long battle with cancer, Jolie said: "She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was."
Jolie, who has six children with her companion and fellow film star Brad Pitt, said she often finds herself trying to explain to her children about the disease that killed her mother. "They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer," she wrote.
The BRCA1 and related BRCA2 genes belong to a class of human genes known as tumor suppressors. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, in normal cells, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes help to maintain the stability of a cell's genetic material -- called DNA -- and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutation of these genes has been linked to the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
The cancer institute estimates that 14 out of every 1,000 women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. However, that risk rises steeply among women with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes to anywhere between 155 to 400 women per 1,000.
These genetic mutations are most commonly found in Jewish women of eastern European descent. Also, Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic peoples have higher rates of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, according to the cancer institute.
Dr. Michael Cowher, a breast surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, said the BRCA mutation doesn't just affect women's breasts or ovaries -- males who carry the genetic mutation face an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers. Also, there's an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in BRCA2 and some BRCA1 carriers, he said.