Rise in breast cancer risk testing after Hollywood star's double mastectomy

16 December 2016 07:51

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie whose decision to publicise her double mastectomy following breast cancer gene testing led to a sharp rise in genetic testing.

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie whose decision to publicise her double mastectomy following breast cancer gene testing led to a sharp rise in genetic testing.

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie's decision to publicise her double mastectomy following breast cancer gene testing led to a sharp rise in genetic testing, a new study suggests.

The star announced in May 2013 that she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer.

The mother-of-six explained her decision in an article for T he New York Times . She said that doctors had estimated she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer due to a faulty hereditary gene.

"I decided to be proactive and to minimise the risk as much I could," she wrote.

Women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic faults have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Editorial assoc iated with increase of 4,500 tests

Experts from the US decided to see whether there was any increase in genetic testing rates in the weeks following the editorial.

The study, published in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal , said they found a steep increase in breast cancer gene testing but no change in overall mastectomy rates.

The team of researchers examined data concerning nine million insured American women aged 18 to 64.

They found a 64% increase in BRCA testing rates occurred in the 15 business days after the editorial was published. It is thought that the article was responsible for 4,500 BRCA tests being carried out

But the researchers saw no overall increase in mastectomy rates, with an average of seven mastectomies a month for every 100,000 women during January to April as well as during May to December 2013.

Stars can make an impact on the use of health services

Celebrity announcements can reach a broad audience but may not effectively target the population that would benefit most from the test - in this case women with a family history of breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer, the authors said.

They concluded: "Celebrity endorsements can have a large and immediate effect on use of health services."

Every year nearly 60,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK. You can arrange travel insurance if you're planning a holiday and suffer from the condition.

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