In mid-May of 2013, actress and director Angelina Jolie disclosed in an op-ed that she underwent a double preventative mastectomy after genetic testing revealed she carried a BRCA1 mutation that put her at high risk of developing breast cancer. This revelation, researchers in the UK report, led to a spike in the number of women seeking genetic testing.
Gareth Evans from the University Hospital of South Manchester and his colleagues report in Breast Cancer Research that there was a two-and-a-half-fold increase in referrals to the 21 family history and genetics clinics they surveyed in June and July of 2013, as compared to 2012. Referrals, they add, remained high through October. They also note that there did not seem to be an increase in inappropriate referrals.
"Angelina 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," Evans tells the Independent. "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."
A similar study conducted in Canada found a 90 percent increase in genetic testing after Jolie's announcement, and likewise found that women with family history of disease were more likely to seek testing.