Angelina Jolie Has Double Mastectomy Over 'Jewish' Gene Breast Cancer Fear

Hollywood Superstar Has BRCA1 Mutation

Stunning Star: Angelina Jolie says she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after discovering she has a genetic mutation that is especially common among Ashkenazi Jewish women.
getty images
Stunning Star: Angelina Jolie says she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after discovering she has a genetic mutation that is especially common among Ashkenazi Jewish women.

By Reuters

Published May 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer and says she hopes her story will inspire other women fighting the life-threatening disease.

Jolie wrote in the New York Times on Tuesday the operation has made it easier for her to reassure her six children that she would not die young from cancer, like her own mother did at 56.

“We often speak of ‘Mommy’s mommy’, and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me,” wrote Jolie, 37.

“I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a ‘faulty’ gene.”

The Oscar-winning actress said her doctors had estimated she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.

“Once I knew this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy,” she said.

Partner and fellow Hollywood star Brad Pitt was by Jolie’s side through three months of treatment that ended late in April, she said. The two got engaged last year.

Jolie said that even though she had kept silent about her treatment while it was going on, she hoped her story would now help other women.

“I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested.”

Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated that one in 300 to one in 500 women carry a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation, as Jolie does.

The anguish faced by Jolie is familiar to many Jewish families. The BRCA1 mutation is especially common among Jewish women, particularly those of Ashkenazi descent.

The gene is at the center of an ongoing Supreme Court case over a biotech company’s effort to patent the gene.

Her decision was hailed by breast cancer patients and charities.

Richard Francis, Head of Research at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity in Britain, said it demonstrated the importance of educating women with the gene fault.

“For women like Angelina it’s important that they are made fully aware of all the options that are available, including risk-reducing surgery and extra breast screening,” Francis told Reuters.

Breast Cancer Campaign Chief Executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said Jolie’s openness in talking about her experience and her decision to have surgery would raise awareness of the disease and its risk.

Jolie won a 1999 best supporting actress Oscar for “Girl, Interrupted”.

She lends her star power to a range of humanitarian campaigns, including serving more than 10 years as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In April, she urged governments to step up efforts to bring wartime sex offenders to justice.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.