Angelina Jolie's aunt has lost her battle with breast cancer, it was reported last night, just weeks after the Oscar-winning actress announced that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy.
The Hollywood entertainment website E! News cited Jolie's uncle, Ron Martin, as saying that his wife, Debbie, the younger sister of Jolie's late mother, died early on Sunday at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California.
"Angelina has been in touch throughout the week and her brother Jamie has been with us, giving his support day by day," Martin was quoted as saying on E!'s website.
"They both loved Debbie very much and although Angie is not able to come right now she has sent her love and support which was very nice."
Jolie, 37, announced earlier this month that she chose to undergo surgery to minimise the risk she might develop breast cancer due to the inheritance of a "faulty gene".
The actress's partner and fellow screen star Brad Pitt led worldwide praise, declaring Jolie heroic, followed by her doctors, other stars and thousands of supporters, who took to social media to praise her openness.
Jolie and Pitt have six children. The actress's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56 and passed on the gene, BRCA1, that put Jolie at higher risk.
Jolie's doctors estimated she had an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer, prompting her to take action to cut the chances that she might die at a young age.
Revealing the procedure in an article in The New York Times, Jolie said her likelihood of developing breast cancer is now just five per cent – although she still runs a relatively high risk of contracting ovarian cancer.
Jolie, respected for her humanitarian work overseas with the UN, said she was speaking out to help other women understand their options, and also to urge governments in lower-income countries to provide the health care women need.