Jolie`s preventive mastectomy fails to raise knowledge of breast cancer risk
Washington – Angelina Jolie’s announcement of undergoing preventive double mastectomy heightened has not translated into increased understanding of breast cancer risk, according to researchers.
A survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that three out of four were aware of her story, but fewer than 10 percent of them could answer questions regarding the BRCA gene mutation that she carries and the risk of developing breast cancer.
Women with harmful mutations in either of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have a risk of breast cancer that is about five times the normal risk, and a risk of ovarian cancer that is about ten to thirty times normal.
Lead author Dina Borzekowski said that Ms. Jolie’s health story was prominently featured throughout the media and was a chance to mobilize health communicators and educators to teach them about the issue but now it feels like it was a missed opportunity to educate the public about a complex but rare health situation.
Among survey respondents, nearly half could recall her estimated risk of breast cancer before the surgery, but fewer than 10 percent of those had the information to interpret the risk of an average woman without a BRCA gene mutation.
Amongst the respondents, about half incorrectly thought that a lack of family history of cancer was associated with a lower than average personal risk of cancer, and among respondents who had at least one close relative affected by cancer, those who were aware of Jolie’s story were less likely than those who were unaware of her story to estimate their own cancer risk as higher than average.
Dr. Debra Roter, co-author of the study said that since many more women without a family history develop breast cancer each year than those with, it is important that women don’t feel falsely reassured by a negative family history.
The new study was led by researchers in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.