A US study has revealed that between 1998 and 2003, there was a 150 per cent increase in the number of women getting a double mastectomy when cancer had only been detected in one breast.
The technical name for this procedure is contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM).
Among those who were put forward for a single mastectomy, the CPM rate rose from 4.2 per cent in 1998 to 11 per cent in 2003.
Lead author Dr Todd Tuttle, chief of surgical oncology and associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota, commented: "We need to determine why this is occurring and use this information to help counsel women about the potential for less invasive options."
He said that increased testing for mutations in BRCA genes, along with less invasive mastectomy approaches and improved breast reconstruction techniques, were probably responsible for the increase.
Scientists have identified more than 600 mutations in the BRCA genes, many of which are thought to lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The study was published today in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology
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