Researchers at the Women’s College Research institute in Toronto have published a study which suggests that there is a 62% reduction in deaths from breast cancer, in patients  with the BRCA1 gene mutation. who have their ovaries removed ( oophorectomy) It is well known that women who carry either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a 70% risk of developing breast cancer and a high risk of developing second primary breast cancer and ovarian cancer, if they do develop breast cancer. Reducing this risk is very important.

The researchers wanted to confirm these observations and they did so by studying a group of 676 women with the above mentioned gene mutations and early stage breast cancer. Among the participants in the study, 345 patients underwent surgery to remove the ovaries, whilst the remaining 331 women retained both ovaries.

Overall 77.4% of the participants were still alive 20 years later, but the study confirmed a 56% reduction in those who had their ovaries removed. The figure was even higher ( 62%) in those who had the BRCA1 mutation.

In the study the ovary removal took place on average 6 years after the diagnosis of breast cancer. The reduction in risk for patients who carried the BRCA 2 gene mutation was not statistically significant.

In total 70 of the participants who carried BRCA1 gene mutation had their ovaries removed within 2 years of diagnosis and there was a 73% reduction in breast cancer  deaths. The protective effect seemed to be immediate and last for at least 15 years.

They study author commented that “the protective effect was particularly effective for the survival benefit in women with oestrogen receptor negative breast cancer and so compelling that oophorectomy should become part of the treatment discussion at the time of diagnosis for BRCA mutation carriers with early stage breast cancer”

Anything that can be done to reduce the risk of further cancer in these patients is a welcome advance. If you have had breast cancer and carry the BRCA1 gene mutation I would suggest that you have this discussion with your doctor.