2014 Breast Cancer Symposium Study Looks into the ‘Angelina Jolie Effect’

September 5, 2014
Amber Bauer, ASCO staff

A group of Canadian researchers showed that the media coverage of Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventive mastectomy was a likely driving force behind an increase in genetic referrals, testing, and detection of BRCA mutation carriers at their academic center. During the six month period after Angelina Jolie announced she had preventive surgery because she was a BRCA mutation carrier and had a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancers, the referral rates for genetic counseling and the number of genetic tests performed was nearly two-times higher. Due to the increased testing at this center, the number of people who were identified as carriers of BRCA1/2 mutations doubled.

“There is remarkable interest in health stories that affect celebrities. What is fascinating about the Angelina Jolie effect is how powerfully it prompted women to seek genetic counseling for breast cancer, particularly those women who were most in need of it. In this instance, Jolie’s choice to share her story really made clinicians and patients aware of the importance of genetic testing in a way that they were not before, and helped drive patients to action,” said Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Dr. Burstein is also a member of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee and Chair of the News Planning Team for the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium.

Dr. Burstein talks more about this research in the following podcast.

Read a full transcript of this podcast.