Risk-reducing mastectomy rates in the US: a closer examination of the Angelina Jolie effect

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Sep;171(2):435-442. doi: 10.1007/s10549-018-4824-9. Epub 2018 May 28.


Purpose: In 2013, Angelina Jolie disclosed in the New York Times (NYT) that she had undergone risk-reducing bilateral mastectomy (RRBM) after learning that she was a BRCA1 mutation carrier. We examined the rates of BRCA testing and RRBM from 1997 to 2016, and quantified trends before and after the Jolie op-ed.

Methods: This observational study of insurance claims data representative of the commercially-insured US population (Truven MarketScan® database) measured BRCA testing and RRBM rates among females ≥ 18 years. Censoring events were breast cancer or ovarian cancer diagnosis, last follow-up date (September 2016), or death. Interrupted time series analyses were used to quantify trends before and after the op-ed.

Results: Angelina Jolie's NYT op-ed led to a statistically significant increase in the uptake of genetic testing and in RRBM among women without previous diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer in the US population, and in women who did not undergo testing for BRCA (P < 0.0001 for both). The rate (slope) of RRBM among women who were previously tested for BRCA (P = 0.70) was unchanged. After excluding women with in-situ tumors, the editorial's effect became less pronounced, suggesting that high-risk women with in-situ breast cancers were most influenced by Jolie's announcement.

Conclusion: The Angelina Effect-a term coined by Time magazine to describe the rise in internet searches related to breast cancer genetics and counseling-represents a long-lasting impact of celebrity on public health awareness as significant increases in genetic testing and mastectomy rates were observed and sustained in subsequent years.

Keywords: BRCA mutation; Bilateral mastectomy; Genetic testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genetic Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Prophylactic Mastectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult