Hollywood star Angelina Jolie's stance to come out with her decision to undergo double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer has seen the number of NHS referrals for genetic tests of breast cancer risk more than double, a new study reveals.
According to the study led by Professor Gareth Evans of Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, there was no evidence that the widespread media coverage given to the Angelina Jolie story had led to inappropriate referrals for testing, the Independent reported.
Evans said that the story had clearly raised awareness of the importance of family history in breast cancer risk and risk-reduction strategies that are available and Jolie stating she has a BRCA1 mutation and going on to have a risk-reducing mastectomy is likely to have had a bigger impact than other celebrity announcements, possibly due to her image as a glamorous and strong woman.
The researchers said that this may have lessened patients' fears about a loss of sexual identity post-preventative surgery and encouraged those who had not previously engaged with health services to consider genetic testing.
The study found that across the 21 test centres that took part in the study, the number of referrals for genetic testing rose from 12,142 in 2012, to 19,751 in 2013 and the rise also coincided with widespread press coverage of new Government guidance recommending the use of breast cancer prevention drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene for women at high risk of breast cancer, but researchers said that the timing of the uplift in referrals clearly indicated it was coverage of Angelina Jolie's operation that had the biggest impact.
The study was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.