What Angelina Jolie forgot to mention

Editor’s Note: H. Gilbert Welch is a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and a co-author of “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.”

Story highlights

Professor of medicine Gil Welch surprised by huge reaction to Angelina Jolie's op-ed

Welch fears women might wonder if they, too, should have preventive mastectomies

Welch: But 99% of women do not carry the BRCA1 mutation that raises the risk of breast cancer

He says women should look at family history before getting tested for the mutation

CNN  — 

I first saw the headline early Tuesday on Real Clear Politics, a political news site where I generally start my morning. It’s not where I expect to see a story on breast cancer.

Then I checked my e-mail messages – they all seemed to be about Angelina Jolie’s op-ed. Students in my undergraduate class wanted to discuss it in our next session. Colleagues expressed concern and wondered what the right response was. People I don’t even know sent e-mails.

One, from a research fellow at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, nicely summed up the general concern: “I fear that this disclosure will motivate other women to undergo preventive mastectomy, even though they do not need it.”

Wow. Maybe I should read it.

<