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Star Power: The Effect of Angelina Jolie’s Personal Story of BRCA1 Mutation on Testing Rates Among Commercially Insured Women

Summary of Publication

On May 14, 2013, Angelina Jolie published an opinion piece in the New York Times describing her decision to undergo a prophylactic (preventive) double mastectomy after testing positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. This AARP Public Policy Institute report (PDF) found that BRCA testing rates increased among women enrolled in a large US health insurance carrier immediately following the publication of Angelina Jolie’s op-ed. The increase was higher among women who had no personal history of breast or ovarian cancer—women with the same profile as Angelina Jolie—compared to women who had a cancer diagnosis. It was also higher for white and Hispanic women, compared to black and Asian women. Jolie’s story heightened awareness of BRCA mutations and probably contributed to those higher testing rates.