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The Impact of Angelina Jolie (AJ)’s Story on Genetic Referral and Testing at an Academic Cancer Centre in Canada


In May 2013, Angelina Jolie revealed to the media that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation. Media coverage has been extensive, but it is not clear how such a personal story affected the public and cancer genetics clinics. We conducted a retrospective review using data from the clinical database of the Familial Cancer Program at our centre. The impact of Ms. Jolie’s story on genetic counseling referrals and the appropriateness of such referrals were assessed and reported. The number of women referred for genetic counseling increased by 90 % after 6 months and remained high one year after AJ’s story with an increase of 88 % from baseline. The number of women who qualified for genetic testing increased by 105 % after 6 months; this increase persisted but was somewhat lower after one year with an increase of 68 % from baseline. Furthermore the number of BRCA1/2 carriers identified increased by 110 % after 6 months and by 42 % after one year.

The effect of Mrs. Jolie’s story persisted one year after its release; however in the latter half of the year, the hereditary cancer risk of referred women was significantly lower than initially observed. The next challenge for our health care system will not only be to meet the increased demand for cancer genetic services in our region, but also to ensure that referrals and hence use of genetic counseling resources are appropriate.

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Correspondence to Jacques Raphael.

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S. Verma: Advisory Board – Roche, EISAI, Amgen, Novartis, Astra Zeneca. All remaining authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

For this type of study (retrospective) formal consent is not required. Informed consent was originally obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Raphael, J., Verma, S., Hewitt, P. et al. The Impact of Angelina Jolie (AJ)’s Story on Genetic Referral and Testing at an Academic Cancer Centre in Canada. J Genet Counsel 25, 1309–1316 (2016).

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  • Angelina Jolie
  • BRCA1/2
  • Genetic referral
  • Genetic counseling
  • Genetic testing