Updated 05:14 AM EST, Thu, Feb 25, 2021

Angelina Jolie Cancer News Update: BRCA Gene Testing Rates Rise After Actress' Surgery

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The actress' decision to get preventative surgery seems to have spiked rates for BRCA gene mutation testing, reports said.

According to Time, a new Canadian study claims that Angelina Jolie's effort to lower her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer has paved way to what's called "The Angelina Effect." The said phenomenon, coined by the said news outlet, refers to the positive impact of the actress' decision on women carrying the mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

The study, conducted by Jacques Raphael, Sunil Verma, Paul Hewitt and Andrea Eisen of Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada, made use of "data from the clinical database of the Familial Cancer Program in a tertiary care cancer centre."

The researchers compared the number of referrals made for genetic testing 6 months before Angeline Jolie broke the news of her double mastectomy via an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

The results of the retrospective study show that there has been an increase in the number of women referred for genetic counseling by 85% - from 479 pre-story to 887 post-story. The number of women who qualified for genetic testing also increased, the study claims, from 211 to 419.

"Among them, 120 and 254 women had a history of breast and ovarian cancer in their family, 16 and 37 women had a history of male breast cancer in their family, and 28 and 15 women were diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35 or less before and after AJ's story respectively. Furthermore, the number of BRCA1/2 carriers identified increased by 107% (29 (14 BRCA1, 15 BRCA2) before and 60 (32 BRCA1, 28 BRCA2) after)," said the authors.

The results of the study shows that Angelina Jolie's story is indeed making a positive impact on women's health by encouraging them to seek genetic counseling and if warranted, undergo genetic testing for mutated BRCA genes. The findings also show that the actress' double mastectomy story reached the right women - those at risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

"The Angelina effect seemed to increase the awareness and the referral for women who were truly at high risk for hereditary breast cancer," said Eisen, as quoted by The Canadian Press.

"It's not just worried women who came in, or those who have moderate or low risk - it was really high risk women who perhaps were concerned before about pursuing genetic [counseling] or genetic testing, but who somehow seemed to have felt reassured or encouraged by this story and came forward for assessment," she added.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes "make proteins to repair DNA and suppress the [growth] of cancer," The Canadian Press explained in the report. However, mutated BRCA genes "leads to an elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancers," it added. 

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