Angelina Jolie’s Breast Operation Doubled Mastectomy Referrals; Similar Stories

Angelina Jolie Effect

Angelina Jolie Effect

When Angelina Jolie had openly told the global media about her double mastectomy operation that removed cancer-prone breast tissue, the whole world reckoned her move as a bold lesson for many women to emulate known as “Agnelina Jolie Effect” and numbers have tripled in the last one year, said a Canadian study.

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie was diagnosed at high risk of genetic cancer and she underwent the preventive surgery that helped her drop to under 5 percent risk. Soon, it had a cascading effect that many women with high risk of genetic cancer started going for the tests and the double mastectomy operation.

While the Canadian study found that Angelina Jolie revelation had a positive effect on women and doctors and termed it “Angelina Jolie Effect”, a new study conducted in the UK recently has found that after her revelation in May 2013, the GP referrals for genetic counseling and DNA test rates have increased tremendously.

In the last one year, the number of people coming forward for the tests increased by two thirds compared to the period a year ago in 2012 and another interesting aspect of it is that the increasing trend is still continuing. The number of referrals has doubled during August month alone compared to last year’s numbers.

The study was conducted by Prof. Gareth Evans from the charity Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention and St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester and the article was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

The study revealed that Angelina Jolie effect was much stronger than other celebrities who had made similar awareness announcements in the past. Evans said previously-held fears about the surgery and consequent loss of women’s sexual identity were no more impacting other women’s decision to for mastectomy. Jolie’s strong advocacy for it also led many women consider genetic testing to decide whether they are prone to it or not.

Prof. Evans said women usually take drugs like tamoxifen, besides following strict diet and exercise to avoid breast cancer but women with mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are recommended to get the surgery done as they are in high risk group with 45 to 90% likelihood of developing breast cancer.


A survey carried out in the USA earlier found that although 75% of Americans were aware of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy, fewer than 10% of respondents had clearity about the risk of developing cancer relative to a woman unaffected by the BRCA gene mutation. About 9% of women were motivated to do something about their health, such as seeing a doctor, having a mammogram or seeing a genetic counselor.

The recent study in the UK found that increased level of appropriate referrals in the UK reflected a similar effect. However, the study found that there is no evidence that the Angelina Jolie story led to inappropriate referrals.

Similar stories

Six years ago, when reality TV star Jade Goody was diagnosed with and then died of cervical cancer, the media coverage led 400,000 women to opt for screening in England between mid-2008 and mid-2009 – the period during which Jade Goody was diagnosed with and died of cervical cancer.

It showed that women closest to Jade Goody’s age or circumstances were those who opted for the screening, said the study based on data culled out from 890 participants. The study showed that 40% of women felt Goody’s story had influenced their decisions about cervical screening. Younger women (aged 26 to 35 years) were more likely to have been influenced by Goody’s story than older women.

A similar trend was seen in bowel cancer screening in the USA after Katie Couric’s colorectal cancer awareness campaign on colonoscopy rates on the “Today Show” in March 2000. The number of colonoscopies performed per month after Ms Couric’s campaign increased by 15.0 per month before and 18.1 per month after the campaign for about 9 months.

Other examples include a 40% increase in breast screening in Australia with the news around Kylie Minogue’s diagnosis, and a 6-month 25% increase in mastectomy for breast cancer after Nancy Reagan’s decision not to have breast-conserving surgery in 1987, said the study.


(By Sridhar Narsing)

One comment

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