TODAY   |  May 27, 2013

Angelina Jolie loses aunt to breast cancer

Actress Angelina Jolie, who revealed less than two weeks ago that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy, lost her aunt, Debbie Martin, Sunday to breast cancer. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> angelina jolie stunned the world with the recent announcement that she underwent a double mastectomy.

>> this morning cancer has touched the star's life again. nbc's kristen dahlgren joins us with details. kristen , good morning.

>> yeah, tough story. jolie cited a family history of cancer as a reason to undergo that preventative procedure. sadly this morning, that history has claimed another family member.

>> reporter: angelina jolie 's aunt, debbie martin , passed away early sunday morning after a battle with breast cancer .

>> just my best friend, the most beautiful woman i knew.

>> she was a beautiful person. we're going to miss her dearly.

>> reporter: the 61-year-old was the sister of jolie 's mother, marcheline bertrand who passed away in 2007 after her struggle with ovarian cancer . earlier this morning in a "new york times" op-ed, jolie revealed she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% be risk of ovarian cancer due to her family's likelihood of carrying the high-risk brca1 gene. with the preventative double mastectomy, that risk is now about 5%.

>> because angelina jolie has the brca gene mutation, she's at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer . so it is a very smart decision on her part to have her breasts removed.

>> angelina has decided that it's far more important for her to be there for her children, to live a long and healthy life, and to enjoy that life with her children.

>> reporter: jolie 's aunt debbie elected to have her ovaries removed shortly after her sister's death in 2007 and was, quote, very proud of her niece's recent decision.

>> it gave her a lot of gratitude that she could have -- that angelina now saved her own life.

>> and while jolie hasn't talked publicly about her surgery since that op-ed, other women are talking more. this week's "time" magazine even highlights the effect jolie going public might have on other women choosing to get the test and to have that preventative surgery.

>> certainly sad as well for her family. thank you, kristen .