Why Jolie's cancer test costs so much

130523190137-sulik-myriad-genetics-protest-story-top(CNN) — Angelina Jolie, when writing about her preventive double mastectomy, did not discuss how much her surgeries cost, but she did mention that many women would not be able to afford the $3,000 to $4,000 test that led her to make the decision. What she failed to say was why the test costs so much. The reason is this: In 1998 Myriad Genetics patented two genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. With its exclusive rights, Myriad developed a test for mutations on those genes trademarked “BRACAnalysis.” Because it essentially owns the genes, Myriad is the only company that can conduct the test, so it sets the price. 

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Editor’s note: Gayle Sulik is a medical sociologist, founder of the Breast Cancer Consortium and author of “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health.” Follow her on Twitter: @pinkribbonblues

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2 comments to Why Jolie’s cancer test costs so much

  • Stan Fields

    Dear Ms. Sulik,

    In the CNN article on why Jolie’s cancer test costs so much, you write that her BRCA1 mutation “increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 65% and ovarian cancer by 39% by the age of 70.” According to the NIH, the lifetime risk of breast cancer in the general population is 12% and for BRCA1 mutation carrier it is 60%, or an increase of 500%. For ovarian cancer, lifetime risk goes from 1.4% to 15-40%, or an increase of about 1000% to 2800%. What you and other writers on this topic (e.g. the Time magazine cover story) are doing is confusing “increase by” with “increase to.”

    If the general risk of a certain cancer is 1 in 100 and the risk increases “by” 65%, the risk is now 1.65 in 100. But if it increases “to” 65%, the risk is now 65 in 100. The distinction is not just a semantic one; imprecise usage causes huge confusion among at risk populations already dealing with difficult and stressful issues. I would urge you to be precise in your language.

    Sincerely,
    Stan Fields

  • Thank you for writing, Stan. You are absolutely correct that the text should read “to” and not “by.” I have requested a correction.

    –Gayle Sulik

To speak her truth, she needed to give her words and identity away, to a trusted poet and friend @stevedavenport breastcancerconsortium.net/ov…

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* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

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