Expert Commentary

Does adjuvant oophorectomy improve survival in BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers with breast cancer?

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Yes. Oophorectomy is associated with a reduction in mortality in women with a BRCA1 mutation who have breast cancer, according to this retrospective analysis of 676 women with stage I or II breast cancer and a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Investigators did not observe a significant decline in mortality associated with oophorectomy in women with a BRCA2 mutation, but the number of BRCA2 carriers was much smaller and the 95% confidence interval was wide (0.23–1.43).

Metcalfe K, Lynch HT, Foulkes WD, et al. Effect of oophorectomy on survival after breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. JAMA Oncol. 2015;1(3):306–313.



Although bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is known to prevent breast and ovarian cancer in BRCA mutation carriers,1 published reports also have suggested that, among mutation carriers with breast cancer, oophorectomy improves survival. In this retrospective analysis, investigators focused on women with stage I or II breast cancer and a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, observing them for as long as 20 years after diagnosis. Survival rates were compared between women who did and did not undergo oophorectomy.

Details of the trial
Metcalfe and colleagues followed women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and intact ovaries who were diagnosed with breast cancer at age 65 or younger between 1975 and 2008, tracking them for a mean of 12.5 years. Of 676 women, 345 underwent oophorectomy, usually with the intent of preventing ovarian cancer.

Overall, oophorectomy was associated with a 56% reduction in the risk of breast cancer-specific mortality (P = .005). Among breast cancer survivors with a BRCA1 mutation, oophorectomy was associated with a significant 62% reduction in breast cancer mortality. Among BRCA2 carriers, the observed 43% reduction in breast cancer mortality did not achieve statistical significance (P = .23).

Full impact of oophorectomy may be difficult to tease out
As Metcalfe and colleagues point out, recent improvements in breast imaging that have led to earlier diagnosis, as well as improvements in the treatment of breast cancer, might attenuate the mortality benefits observed with oophorectomy.

This important report underscores the importance of testing all women with early-stage breast cancer for BRCA mutations, and informs the management of known BRCA1 carriers with breast cancer.
—Andrew M. Kaunitz, MD

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