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Study finds removing ovaries could save lives

Updated: Wednesday, February 26 2014, 07:10 AM EST

Rochester, N.Y. -- New research confirms women with the gene mutation that causes breast cancer and ovarian cancer can reduce their risk of death by having their ovaries removed.

Women who carry mutations in gene BRCA1 or 2 could reduce their risk of dying from ovarian cancer by 77 percent if their ovaries are removed.

“Now that we have testable genes available we can council families in different ways,” said Lauren Smith, genetics counselor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, “and provide them with something that can be potentially proactive about their health and medical management as opposed to use family history as the only tool.”

These BRCA gene mutations cause 5-10 percent of breast cancers and 15 percent of ovarian cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology recommends women with a BRCA1 gene mutation have their ovaries removed by age 35; those with a mutation in BRCA2 can wait until 40.

“If the average age of menopause is age 52 and someone gets their ovaries removed at age 35, that's almost 20 years of loss of benefits of estrogen and he impact of that in terms of cardio vascular health,” explained Eugene Toy, chief of obstetrics and gynecology services at Rochester General Hospital. “As soon as the estrogen is gone, a female’s risk of heart disease becomes similar to a male. That’s significant, and you can’t take that back.”

That and being able to have a child are factors Dr. Toy's patients with the gene mutation have to take into consideration.

But according to Toy, BRCA1 carriers also have a nearly 50-50 chance of getting ovarian cancer sometime in their life.

“I think when they look at that they want to do everything they can to be proactive,” said Toy. "You hope you can reach them at a time when they've already completed their childbearing and it's a non-issue, but if they're young and you're looking at planning the rest of their lives it's a very, very difficult situation.”

Study finds removing ovaries could save lives

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