Angelina Jolie is on the cover of Time magazine, and is being credited for ushering in a potentially new phenomenon--preemptive surgery after genetic testing.

There's a chilly arithmetic to the way we all get sick. At the end of any year, a fixed and knowable number of us will have developed heart disease, and another number won't have. There will be a different entry in the ledger for cancer, another for lung disease, another for Parkinson's or dementia or HIV. The people who study those mortal metrics--the actuaries, the epidemiologists--don't give too much thought to the individuals behind the numbers, and the truth is, they can't. It's no good sentimentalizing math--not if you want to get anything useful out of it.

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