The more we learn about cancer and rare diseases, the more we understand that there are some genetic causes which can be predicted. Famously, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie chose to have a double mastectomy when she learned that, like her mother, she carried the ‘faulty’ BRCA1 gene. Her mother had died from cancer aged 56, so when Jolie learned that she had an 87% chance of developing the same disease; she elected to have the surgery to reduce her chances of developing the disease.
Public Health England receives around 30,000 requests a year from clinical geneticists and genetics counsellors who are helping cancer patients or their families to make informed choices about their health. Because the information is highly sensitive, and may need to be interpreted with other information that is will not held by PHE, they only accept requests from registered clinical geneticists from a secure NHS email address.