Actress Angelina Jolie has written a personal account of being told she has a fault in her BRCA1 gene and her decision to have a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.

Writing in the New York Times she says she was told by her doctors that the defect in her BRCA1 gene raised her individual chances of developing breast cancer to 87%.

Angelina describes her decision to undergo risk-reducing surgery after her mother died from ovarian cancer aged 56.

Our Clinical Director Emma Pennery has welcomed Angelina's comments saying: 'Angelina's experience will resonate with the many women we support each day. Her comments highlight this important issue and encourage women in a similar situation to find support.

'It is positive that Angelina feels surgery has not reduced her femininity though we know that people’s experiences of surgery will vary.'

Emma added: 'It’s important that anyone who has inherited a faulty BRCA gene is able to make an informed decision about risk-reducing surgery and other options available to them.'

Emma's full statement can be seen on our Media Centre pages.

Most breast cancers not inherited

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK affecting 55000 women every year. Most breast cancers happen by chance but a small number of people diagnosed with breast cancer (5%) have inherited a fault in one of the known breast cancer genes: BRCA1 BRCA2 or TP53.

Most breast cancers are not caused by inherited (genetic) factors and do not affect the lifetime risk for other relatives. So even if you have a relative with breast cancer it doesn't necessarily mean you’re more likely to get it yourself.

However a small number of people may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because they have a significant family history. A family history looks at the past and present illnesses of your blood relatives (those related to you by birth not marriage) over several generations.

If you’re concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer it’s important that you get professional advice tailored to you and your family. Your GP (local doctor) is a good place to start.

Our Breast cancer in families booklet explains what a diagnosis of breast cancer in your family may mean for you. The Breast Cancer Care Helpline on 0808 800 6000 can also offer information and support for anyone concerned about breast cancer.

Being told you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because of an inherited genetic fault or significant family history can be an anxious time. Making decisions about managing your risk either by earlier screening or risk-reducing surgeries can be difficult. It can help to talk to someone who understands how you feel.

We can put you in touch with someone who has been through a similar situation and is trained to offer support. Find out more about One-to-One Support.