23:17 GMT28 February 2021
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    Gene counselors warn against the "Angelina Jolie Effect," claiming that misinterpreted genetic test results can lead to unnecessary surgery.

    Gene counselors are warning against the "Angelina Jolie Effect," claiming that misinterpreted results of tests for cancer risk can lead to unnecessary surgery.

    On March 24, Angelina Jolie Pitt announced she has had surgery aimed at the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes in order to reduce her risk of getting cancer. Two years ago, Angelina Jolie decided to undergo preventive surgery after she found out that she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which tremendously increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

    Remarkably, after the famous Hollywood actress had undergone a double mastectomy in 2013, specialists registered a sharp increase in demand for genetic testing and dubbed it the "Angelina Jolie Effect." However, researchers point out that a positive BRCA test does not mean the necessity of immediate surgery, saying there are numerous other options for women at risk.

    Scientists elaborate that Angelina Jolie's move was justified by her family history of breast and ovarian cancer: Jolie lost her mother, who died at the age of 56, as well as her aunt and her grandmother to the deadly disease.

    Although thousands of possible mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes could potentially increase the risk of cancer, it is impossible to predict whether many of these mutations will definitely result in the disease. BRCA mutations trigger deep concerns among experts, since it remains unclear whether people should make certain decisions based on genetic test results.

    The uncertainty surrounding BRCA mutations test can result in unnecessary surgery, note experts. Ellen Matloff, a founder of the cancer genetic-counseling program at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, reported of at least four cases when women had undergone preventive surgery aimed at theremoval of their breasts or ovaries after finding out they had mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. The scientist pointed out that these mutations had not been definitely linked to increased cancer risk. So far, Matloff warned patients about unqualified gene counselors who may misinterpret their genetic tests and push them into undergoing unnecessary surgery.


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