American actress Angelina Jolie has undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a very high risk of breast cancer.
The 37-year-old wrote in an opinion piece entitled "My Medical Choice", in The New York Times that she had chosen the procedure because she carries a faulty gene that increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
She said she was speaking out to encourage other women with a family history of cancer to seek out information from doctors and make informed choices about their bodies.
Jolie, one of Hollywood's best-known faces and partner of actor Brad Pitt, said that because of this gene, known as BRCA-1, her doctors estimated that she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and 50% risk of ovarian cancer, AFP reports.
The actress and humanitarian campaigner said her mother died of cancer at the age of 56 after a 10-year battle. She decided to have the surgery out of fears she might not be around for her six children.
"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimise the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.
"I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex," she wrote.
Jolie said that on 27 April she completed the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved and her chances of developing breast cancer are now down to 5%.
Angelina Jolie won a best supporting actress Oscar for her work on Girl, Interrupted in 1999. She has three adopted and three biological children with Pitt. The couple got engaged last year.