Angelina Jolie revealed in May 2013 that she'd undergone a double mastectomy after finding out she carried the "breast cancer gene"; what followed was an increase in referrals to breast cancer clinics. British researchers, who call the upswing "the Angelina Jolie effect," say it has been "long-lasting and global," the CBC reports. Their study found that referrals for genetic counseling in the UK increased by 2.5 times after Jolie revealed her surgery, and were still at almost twice their previous levels through October. Referrals for genetic testing jumped as well, with seven Regional Genetics Centers seeing an 80% increase in full BRCA1/2 between July 2013 and December 2013 compared to the year prior.
And, though some had been concerned the jump might be attributed to nervous patients seeking a second referral after hearing Jolie's story, researchers write "internal review shows that there was no increase in inappropriate referrals." The researchers note that other celebrities have caused similar increases, such as an upswing in colonoscopies after Katie Couric's colorectal cancer awareness campaign. But Jolie seems to have had a larger impact, "possibly due to her image as a glamorous and strong woman," says a researcher quoted by the BBC. "This may have lessened patients' fears about a loss of sexual identity post-preventative surgery and encouraged those who had not previously engaged with health services to consider genetic testing." (Read more breast cancer stories.)