Women at elevated risk for  breast cancer (breast cancer types) – or a recurrence of the disease – increasingly are choosing double mastectomies as a protective measure against cancer’s rebound, doctors said.

Emmy Award-winning actress Christina Applegate, who underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer earlier this month, announced yesterday that she also chose a preventive mastectomy, commonly called a prophylactic mastectomy, on the opposite side.

Applegate, 36, said she carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation. Over a lifetime, BRCA 1 can increase the risk of the disease by as much as 85 percent.mastectomies

She said her choice of a prophylactic mastectomy was to pre-empt the possibility of developing breast cancer in the future.

Genomic testing in recent years not only allows women to learn whether they’re carriers of a mutation, but a positive test can pave the way for making an excruciatingly difficult decision, said Dr. Brian O’Hea, medical director of the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center.

In addition to BRCA 1, the gene carried by Applegate, another, BRCA 2, also can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Carriers of BRCA 1 and 2 also have elevated ovarian cancer (ovarian cancer treatment) risks. The genes can be transmitted by either parent, and are a leading cause of breast cancer that occurs before the age of 40.

BRCA 2 also escalates the risk of male breast cancer, though not as high as that for women, added O’Hea, who noted that men generally do not undergo prophylactic mastectomies.

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