Angelina Jolie’s public announcement that she had received a preventive double mastectomy because of her increased risk of breast cancer may have helped double genetic testing rates at a Canadian cancer center. This finding is scheduled to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium, held from Sept. 4 to 6 in San Francisco.
Jacques Raphael, M.D., of the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto, and colleagues conducted a retrospective review of data from a familial cancer program to assess the effect of Angelina Jolie’s personal story about breast cancer on the rate of genetic referral and testing.
The researchers found that in the six months following the release of the Jolie story, compared with the six months before the announcement, the number of women referred for genetic counseling increased by 90 percent (916 versus 483).
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Subsequently, the number of women who qualified for genetic testing increased by 105 percent (437 versus 213). Among them were women with a family history of breast cancer, including male breast cancer, and ovarian cancer, as well as women who were diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 years or younger. The number of BRCA1/2 carriers identified increased from 29 before the story to 61 after the story (110 percent increase).
“While this is a small study, it shows the profound impact that prominent figures like Jolie can have on public awareness of health issues,” Raphael said in a statement.
One author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.