Women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations have up to 70 percent increased odds of developing breast cancer. They are also likely to develop second primary breast and ovarian cancers once they do develop the condition.

Findings of a new study, however, found that the removal of ovaries can lower their risks for breast cancer deaths. For the new research published in JAMA Oncology on April 23, Kelly Metcalfe, from the Women's College Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues studied more than 600 women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations and who were on the early stage of breast cancer.

Of these patients, 345 underwent a procedure known as oophorectomy, which removes the ovaries. The rest of the subjects retained both of their ovaries.

The researchers found a 56 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths among women who had oophorectomy. The reduction was 62 percent in women who have the BRCA1 mutation and 43 percent in women who have the BRCA2 mutation. They also found that the procedure was associated with 65 percent reduction in deaths from all causes showing that oophorectomy increases the survival rates of BRCA1 carriers.

The procedure was performed on the participants six years on average after they were diagnosed of breast cancer. The participants with BRCA1 mutations that had their ovaries eliminated within two years after they were diagnosed were also found to have a 73 percent reduction in death. The researchers likewise observed that the procedure's protective effect was immediate and it lasted for 15 years.

"Oophorectomy is associated with a decrease in mortality in women with breast cancer and a BRCA1 mutation," the researchers wrote in their study. "Women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer and a BRCA1mutation should undergo oophorectomy shortly after diagnosis."

JAMA Oncology editor-in-chief Mary L. Disis said that the findings of the body validated oophorectomy's benefits among BRCA1 mutation carriers. She added that the findings of the study showed that the procedure should be discussed as a treatment option for BRCA mutation carriers who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer given its potential.

"The results provide a validation of the role of oophorectomy in conveying both a disease-free and overall survival benefit for BRCA1 mutation carriers," Disis wrote.

The researchers pointed out that their research has limitation. The study, in particular, only involved women diagnosed with stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer. Thus, the results may not be applicable for those who already have advanced stage breast cancer. 

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