Miss America contestant plans double mastectomy

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LAS VEGAS -- Whoever wins the Miss America pageant Saturday, contestant Allyn Rose will have conveyed a message about breast cancer prevention using her primary tool as a beauty queen: her body.

The 24-year-old Miss D.C. plans to undergo a double mastectomy after she struts in a bikini and flaunts her roller-skating talent. She is removing both breasts as a preventive measure to reduce her chances of developing the disease that killed her mother, grandmother and great-aunt.

"My mom would have given up every part of her body to be here for me, to watch me in the pageant," she said between dress rehearsals and preliminary competitions. "If there's something that I can do to be proactive, it might hurt my body, it might hurt my physical beauty, but I'm going to be alive."

The University of Maryland graduate said it was her father who first broached the subject, during her freshman year of college, two years after the death of her mother.

"I said, 'Dad I'm not going to do that. I like the body I have.' He got serious and said, 'Well then you're going to end up dead like your mom.' "

Her mother, Judy Rose, had one breast removed in her 20s, but waited until she was 47 to remove the other one.

"That's when they found she had a stage three tumor in her breast," Rose said. "And that's why for me, I'm not going to wait."

She plans to have reconstructive surgery.

Preventive surgery is a "very reasonable" choice for someone with Rose's family history and a genetic predisposition, said Patricia Ganz, director of Cancer Prevention at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

"I've seen young women have it done, and they have great peace of mind," she said.

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Others disagree. For someone in her early 20s to have the procedure is "very unusual," said Todd Tuttle, chief of surgical oncology at the University of Minnesota.

Sandra Swain, medical director of Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C., fears that women who have lost family members to breast cancer could take Rose's example too literally.

"We're seen a rise in prophylactic mastectomies and a lot of it is not for a medical reason; it is because of fear and anxiety," she said.


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