Actress Angelina Jolie’s aunt has died from breast cancer, less than two weeks after the star had a double mastectomy to avoid the disease.
Debbie Martin, 61, died in a San Diego, California-area hospital, her husband Ron said today.
Mrs Martin was the younger sister of Jolie’s mother Marcheline Bertrand, whose own death from cancer in 2007 inspired the surgery that Jolie described in a May 14 New York Times article.
According to her husband, Mrs Martin had the same defective BRCA1 gene as Jolie, but did not know it until after her 2004 cancer diagnosis.
He said had his wife known in advance of her genetic risk, “she would have done exactly what Angelina did”.
Mrs Martin’s death was first reported by E! News.
Mr Martin said after getting breast cancer, his wife had her ovaries removed preventively because she was also at very high genetic risk for ovarian cancer, which has killed several women in her family.
Jolie, 37, said her doctors estimated that she had a 50% risk of getting ovarian cancer but an 87% risk of breast cancer.
She had her breasts removed first, reducing her likelihood to a mere 5%.
She described the three-step surgical process in detail “because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience”.
The story, a surprise to most save those closest to Jolie, spurred a broad discussion of genetic testing and pre-emptive surgery.