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Ovary removal proves beneficial for cancer-prone women

BRCA mutation carriers who opt for surgery survive longer than those forgoing the operation

Surgical removal of the ovaries lessens the risk of death in women carrying a BRCA mutation linked to breast and ovarian cancer, a new study shows. The research also indicates that women undergoing this operation or a mastectomy limit their risk of ovarian or breast cancer, bolstering previous findings that these operations offer long-term protection (SN: 5/25/02, p. 323). The new study appears in the Sept. 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This is really the first study to show that these women live longer” if they get their ovaries taken out, says Virginia Kaklamani, a medical oncologist at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. 

The BRCA gene encodes a protein that protects against cancer. But women carrying a mutated form of the gene face a 50 to 80 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and also have a heightened risk of ovarian cancer.

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