Melissa Etheridge called out actress Angelina Jolie last week for a “fearful” and not “brave” decision to undergo a double mastectomy to avoid a high risk of breast cancer.
Cancer experts say Etheridge was way off the mark.
The singer caused controversy when she addressed Angelina Jolie’s recent admission that she elected to have a double mastectomy after doctors told her she had a high genetic risk of cancer. Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor herself, said she did not agree with those praising Jolie for the decision.
She told the Washington Blade that Jolie “made the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer.” Etheridge went on to say that she believes cancer comes from inside the body and has more to do with the environment of the body than genetics.
Despite a backlash, this week Melissa Etheridge stood by her criticism.
“I don’t have any opinion of what she ‘should have’ done. All are free to choose. I only objected to the term ‘brave’ describing it,” Etheridge said in a statement to ABC News.
Experts disagree with Etheridge’s assertion that cancer is more a product of the environment than genetics, however.
“Is she saying it’s better to confront cancer? We don’t have clear prevention strategies for this type of cancer, we only have risk reducing strategies including mastectomy, oophorectomy and high risk surveillance,” said Andrea Geduld, the director of the Breast Health Resource Center at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Geduld added that no one would criticize a person for wearing a seatbelt to prevent dying in a car accident, so they shouldn’t be criticized for having a double mastectomy to prevent cancer.
The situation was made a bit more awkward when Brad Pitt described Melissa Etheridge as “an old friend” after being asked about her comments. Angelina Jolie’s husband added that he’s sure he’ll talk to Etheridge on the phone at some point to address the issue.