Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to get both her breasts removed after testing positive for a gene associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer has inspired many women to go for similar genetic testing, says a study.
Jolie received widespread media attention two years ago when she told the public that she had tested positive for the gene BRCA1.
“Women who identified strongly with Jolie were more likely to get the genetic testing regardless of whether they had a family history of cancer than women who did have a family history of cancer but did not identify with Jolie,” said study lead author Kami Kosenko, associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University in the US.
“The same was true of women who felt they had some sort of parasocial relationship with Jolie, meaning they viewed her as a friend. This means that Jolie’s speaking out definitely had an impact,” Kosenko said.
The findings suggest that when it comes to a celebrity’s impact on the public, that impact depends in part on the extent to which the public identifies with the celebrity.
“We put a questionnaire online within three days of Jolie’s announcement, to see if the announcement influenced anyone’s intention to get genetic testing,” Kosenko said.
For the study, 356 people from across the US completed the questionnaire, of which 295 were aware of Jolie’s announcement.
Of the 229 female study participants, researchers found that 30 percent intended to get tested to see if they carried the BRCA1 gene.