Angelina Jolie’s Announcement Encouraged Some Patients’ To Get Tested For Breast Cancer

Kami Kosenko PhD Department of Communication North Carolina State University MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kami Kosenko PhD
Department of Communication
North Carolina State University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Kosenko: In May 2013, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had had a genetic test that revealed a BRCA1 gene mutation and, as a result, had had a preventive double mastectomy. Although the announcement was met with widespread interest and support, some worried that that her story would prompt unnecessary genetic tests and requests for prophylactic surgeries. These concerns served as the basis for a Time magazine article, entitled “The Angelina Effect,” in which the authors hypothesized that her story would have a profound impact on the general public. Anecdotal evidence supports Time magazine’s hypothesis, but we lack empirical tests of the Angelina effect. So, we designed a study to how Angelina’s announcement affected women’s intentions to engage in genetic testing for BRCA1.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Kosenko: We found that the vast majority of individuals surveyed had heard about Angelina’s announcement and that her story had a greater impact on individuals who identified with Angelina or thought of her as a friend. Also, we found that one’s family history of cancer, alone, did not motivate one’s intention to get tested but that, for women with affected family members and a perceived friendship with Jolie, Angelina’s announcement strengthened their intentions to get tested.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kosenko: Celebrity illness stories have both reach and impact, which suggests that a celebrity’s star power could be harnessed for health promotion efforts. In addition, celebrity health crises can serve as a cue to action for the general public.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kosenko: Some worry that celebrity health crises garner attention and funding for some diseases and not others; however, we know little about the actual impact of celebrities on health policy and funding. This warrants additional study. Also, our study, which was conducted in the month following Jolie’s announcement, focused on individuals’ intentions to get tested, not actual testing behavior. Further tests of Time magazine’s hypothesis need to attend to the story’s effects on actual testing behavior.

Citation:

Kami A. Kosenko, Andrew Binder, Ryan Hurley. Celebrity Influence and Identification: A Test of the Angelina Effect. Journal of Health Communication, 2015; 150720075912008 DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2015.1064498

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MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kami Kosenko PhD (2015). Angelina Jolie’s Announcement Encouraged Some Patients’ To Get Tested For Breast Cancer