The “faulty gene” that Angelina Jolie credited with her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy is one of three genetic mutations known as “Ashkenazi Jewish mutations,” which are common among Jews of Eastern European descent and increase their carriers’ risk of developing breast cancer. Nevertheless, relatively few Israeli woman choose to undergo the same preventative surgery.
One in every eight Israeli women is at risk of developing breast cancer at some time in her life, from birth to age 90. But a genetic risk factor is found in only about 15 percent of cases.
In recent years, physicians have increasingly debated the need to perform preventative mastectomies to keep women who carry the mutation from developing breast cancer.
The decision to undergo prophylactic double mastectomy has fluctuated over the years. A study of 5,405 American women with the Ashkenazi mutation who were treated at the Mayo Clinic during the 1990s found that 45 percent had chosen prophylactic mastectomy.
The statistics show high rates of prophylactic mastectomy among carriers in the U.S. (36.3 percent), the Netherlands (32.7 percent) and France (25 percent) as compared with Norway (4.5 percent), Israel (4.2 percent) and Poland (2.7 percent).
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