'Angelina Jolie effect' as cancer gene testing sees large spike

  • 21/10/2017
'Angelina Jolie effect' as cancer gene testing sees large spike
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Angelina Jolie's admission she had a gene that made her far more likely to get breast cancer, and her subsequent call for women to get tested, seems to have had a wide-ranging effect.

Researchers from the University of Georgia looking into how testing for breast cancer genes rates changed between 2003 and 2014 discovered rates improved 80 fold, with a "large spike" in 2013 - the year Jolie announced she had tested positive for the gene and had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy.

During that year Jolie released an opinion piece for The New York Times, urging women to get tested for the BRCA gene. The US Supreme Court struck down the patent on BRCA gene testing.

The study's author, Zhuo "Adam" Chen, said the results showed the impact celebrity involvement and policy change can have on testing rates.

"This could provide insights on the impact of the policy changes and the media coverage of celebrity endorsement," he said.

Dr Zhuo said he couldn't quite pinpoint the largest factor in the rise in genetic testing, with several different events occurring in the same amount of time.

"Jolie's op-ed, the Supreme Court decision on BRCA gene and the USPSTF recommendation occurred in a very compact timeline."

Dr Chen hoped with the growing availability and awareness of genetic testing, more consumers would be able to make informed choices about their health.