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Angelina Jolie and genetic breast cancer risk

Wednesday 15 May, 2013

Actress Angelina Jolie's recent public comments about her decision to undergo a prophylactic (preventive) double mastectomy have attracted worldwide media interest.

Given the prevalence of breast cancer in Australia (14,000 new cases and 2700 deaths a year), there has been significant interest in this country in Ms Jolie's decision.

Although breast cancer is common in Australia, only 5% to 10% of cases are linked to known genetic factors. 

Prophylactic surgery on the basis of genetic susceptibility to illness is a complex issue and we recommend anyone considering this form of surgery seek expert advice so they can make an informed decision. Women who are concerned about genetic risk of breast cancer should discuss the issue with their doctor. GPs can offer advice on genetic testing and counselling.

The main cause of breast cancer is ageing. Cutting alcohol intake can, however, significantly reduce your risk, as can maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and eating a balanced diet, particularly for postmenopausal women.

To speak to an experienced cancer nurse, call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20. Nurses are unable to give individual medical advice, but can discuss the effects of specific types of cancer and explain what will happen during processes like chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other cancer treatments.

For more information, see our pages on:

In response to increased awareness and concern Cancer Council will hold a webinar ‘Breast cancer in the family: What does that mean for me?' on Tuesday 25th June. For more information please call the Cancer Helpline 13 11 20 or register online.