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Angelina Jolie double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer may soon be a thing of the past

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Women like Hollywood film star Angelina Jolie, whose genes put them at high risk of developing breast cancer, may not need a double mastectomy-instead, they can reduce their chances just by controlling their menstrual cycle, new research has found.

There’s a connection between the hormones that regulate the cycle and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Inherited mutations of the genes put a woman at very high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, and many-including Angelina Jolie-opt to have a double mastectomy or remove their fallopian tubes and ovaries.

But such drastic preventative measures may soon be a thing of the past, say researchers at University College London. They have found that the genetic mutations also affect organs that control the menstrual cycle, which plays a key role in the development of breast and ovarian cancer.

In their new study, the researchers have found that women who have a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes also have fewer molecules in their blood that block the start of breast cancer. Thus far, they have seen the connection in laboratory mice.

They say that breast removal is an extreme measure, and it may be enough to give the women a drug or supplement that encourages the generation of the molecules, known as OPGs. The OPGs block proteins, known as RANKL, that are triggers for breast cancer.

(Source: EBioMedicine, 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.08.037)

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