COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Angelina Jolie heightened awareness about breast cancer when she announced in a New York Times op-ed that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy. But a new study led by researchers in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health reveals that widespread awareness of Jolie’s story did not translate into increased understanding of breast cancer risk.
The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that three out of four were aware of Jolie’s story, but fewer than 10 percent of those could correctly answer questions about the BRCA gene mutation that Jolie carries and the typical person’s risk of developing breast cancer. Though very rare, 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. The study is published on December 19, 2013 in Genetics in Medicine. (more…)