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Educational Angelina Effect

Actress and director Angelina Jolie's 2013 disclosure about having a BRCA1 variant that elevated her risk of breast and ovarian cancer and her decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy increased public awareness regarding breast cancer treatment, according to a team of Austrian researchers.

The researchers, led by the Medical University of Graz's Benjamin Lumenta surveyed 1,000 women before and after Jolie's announcement. It was, Lumenta notes in a statement, a "serendipitous study." He and his colleagues asked respondents about breast cancer and their knowledge of breast reconstruction surgery.

Prior to Jolie's announcement, 57.6 percent of respondents knew that breast reconstruction with a woman's own fat tissue, though after her announcement, that jumped to 68.9 percent, as the researchers report in Cancer today.

The researchers also asked their second, post-Jolie announcement cohort about how the media coverage of Jolie's announcement influenced. Some 20 percent said the coverage made them "deal more intensively with the topic of breast cancer."

"This is the first prospective report to prove the media's effect on the healthcare-related issue of breast cancer among the general public," Lumenta says, adding that "[s]ince individual choice will become a driving force for patient-centered decision-making in the future, cancer specialists should be aware of public opinion when consulting patients with breast cancer."