Reducing the Risk of Gynecologic Cancer in Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer Syndrome Mutation Carriers: Moral Dilemmas and the Principle of Double Effect

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Hereditary breast ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome is an autosomal dominant disease linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in 90 percent of affected families. Female mutation carriers are highly susceptible to aggressive, often disseminated, usually fatal pelvic-abdominal carcinomatosis. This cancer risk can be markedly reduced by surgical removal of the internal gynecologic organs before the end of the fourth decade of life and by using estrogen–progestin formulations marketed for many years as combined oral contraceptives (COCs). Both risk-reducing methods are associated with unfavorable effects. Relying on the principle of double effect, this essay argues for the ethical justification of prophylactic surgery and the use of COC to reduce the risk of gynecologic cancer in HBOC syndrome mutation carriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLinacre Quarterly
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy

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