The Jolie effect continues as tests for breast cancer gene soar

A new study has confirmed that tests for the cancer gene BRCA  have continued to soar following Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy after a similar test.

BRCA testing rates surged nearly 40% in the week of Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she carried the BRCA 1 gene mutation and had an elective double mastectomy, according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute study released today.

This is the first report quantifying an increase in BRCA testing rates among women holding health insurance with a large US  company.

AARP Angelina Jolie photo from Istock _GPhillips_

Prior to Ms. Jolie’s announcement, women with a cancer diagnosis had more BRCA tests than women who did not, the AARP study found. However, during the week of her public announcement, the increase in BRCA testing among women who did not have a cancer diagnosis was nearly twice that of women with a cancer diagnosis. BRCA testing helps identify treatment options for women with the gene mutations before or after they are diagnosed with breast and/or ovarian cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Testing increased by 40%
“Our study showed that the BRCA testing rate increased about 40% and stayed at an elevated level for the rest of the year after Angelina Jolie’s announcement,” said AARP Executive Vice President for Policy Debra Whitman, PhD.

On May 14, 2013, Angelina Jolie announced in The New York Times that she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation and underwent a preventive double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. Ms. Jolie’s story gained immediate and widespread international media attention.

About 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be caused by hereditary genetic defects, according to the American Cancer Society. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer. Women with either mutation have a high lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

“By revealing her personal story, Angelina Jolie did an incredible job of raising public awareness about the BRCA gene mutations and the increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer,” added Whitman. “We found that Baby Boomer women ages 50- to 64-years-old had the highest increase in testing rates for the BRCA gene.”

To better understand the so-called “Angelina Jolie effect”, AARP, in collaboration with Optum Labs, compared BRCA testing rates based on claims among commercially-insured women ages 35 and older in the US, before and after Ms. Jolie’s story was publicized in 2013.

Study Highlights

— BRCA testing rates increased nearly 40% per week, from an average of 350
tests per week to an average of 500 tests per week and remained elevated
for the rest of the year.
— Women ages 50-64 had the highest BRCA testing rate increase (44%),
followed by women ages 35-49 (40%).
— BRCA testing rates increased for women among all racial and ethnic
groups: 43% among white women; 43% among Hispanic women; 23% among black
women; and 16% among Asian women.

Final-Jolie-effect-graphic-4-02 Infographic

About the survey

“Star Power: Angelina Jolie’s Personal Story of BRCA1 Mutation on Testing Rates Among Commercially-Insured Women” Methodology

AARP’s Public Policy Institute examined the number and rates of BRCA tests among women covered by a large, national U.S. health insurance carrier before and after Angelina Jolie’s May 2013 announcement (January-December 2013). Using data from the Optum Labs database of retrospective administrative claims data, the report also analyzed the age, race/ethnicity, and cancer diagnosis status of women ages 35 and older who received the tests.

About AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin;; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at

Genie Bra goes pink to support Breast Cancer Care

The world’s most popular bra, for post operative cancer patients, is now available in pink – and be worn by anyone looking for the ultimate in comfort.

Genie Bra CUTOUT(PINK).jpg

Over 30 million Genei Bras have been sold worldwide, mainly by cancer patients who’ve found it a perfect post operative bra and comfortable to wear over scars. Its also ab increasingly popular choice for women who want a bra that fits and it comfortable. Over 80% of women don’t own a bra that fits!
So for the next 12 months the pink bra will be available to buy, with £1 from every sale – the bra costs £13.50 – going to the charity Breast Cancer Care. It can be bought in the UK’s BHS and other selected retailers.
The regular Genie can be bought in a three pack for £39.95 at Asda, Boots, Tesco and BHS and also direct from Genie Bra
It’s accepted that a badly fitting bra can impact on breast health. Genie Bra is the only seamless bra with pads which is designed to be the most comfortable fitting bra for women of all shapes and sizes. 
These are some of the benefits:
  • Genie Bra gives you support without the need for underwires, hooks and no adjusting straps.
  • The secret is in the woven, comfort stretch fabric that conforms to any size and never looses its shape
  • It’s great for expectant mums with the wide comfort life band designed to move with  you
  • Specially designed insert pockets, so you can slip in the extra soft, full coverage support pads for that enhanced shape
  • Not only does it look good but its easy to wash and bounces back to its original shape
  • No back or boob bulge
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Aspirin cuts breast cancer risks


New York: Women who have completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer and who take aspirin have a nearly 50% reduced risk of breast cancer death and a similar reduction in the risk of metastasis. The findings are based on an analysis of data from the Nurse’s Health Study, a large, ongoing, prospective observational study.

“This is the first study to find that aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of cancer spread and death for women who have been treated for early-stage breast cancer,” said lead author Michelle Holmes, MD, DrPH, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.

“If these findings are confirmed in other clinical trials, taking aspirin may become another simple, low-cost, and relatively safe tool to help women with breast cancer live longer, healthier lives.”

Investigators report it is not yet clear how aspirin affects cancer cells, but they speculate it decreases the risk of cancer metastasis by reducing inflammation, which is closely associated with cancer development. Prior studies have also suggested that aspirin inhibits cancer spread: One study found that people with colon cancer who took aspirin lived longer than those who did not, and laboratory studies have also shown that aspirin inhibited the growth and invasiveness of breast cancer cells.

In this analysis, which was published online in an issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers evaluated data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which included 4,164 female nurses in the United States (aged 30-55 years in 1976) who were diagnosed with stage I, II, or III breast cancer between 1976 and 2002 and were followed through June 2006.

They examined patients’ use of aspirin for 1 or more years after a breast cancer diagnosis (when patients would have completed treatment such as surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy) and the frequency of metastasis and breast cancer death.

The authors emphasised that patients undergoing active treatment should not take aspirin due to potential interactions that can increase certain side effects.

A total of 400 women experienced metastasis, and 341 of these died of breast cancer. Women who took aspirin 2 to 5 days per week had a 60% reduced risk of metastasis and a 71% lower risk of breast cancer death. Those who took aspirin 6 or 7 days a week had a 43% reduced risk of metastasis and a 64% lower risk of breast cancer death. The risk of breast cancer metastasis and mortality did not differ between women who did not take aspirin and those who took aspirin once a week.

Researchers also found that women who took non-aspirin non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 6 or 7 days a week also had a reduced risk of breast cancer death (a 48% reduction), but women who took NSAIDS less frequently and those who used acetaminophen did not experience such a benefit.

“Several studies have suggested that aspirin may have beneficial effects against cancer because of its anti-inflammatory effects. But aspirin can cause stomach bleeding and is not for everyone. These are promising findings, and if they are confirmed in additional clinical trials, physicians may be able to regularly recommend aspirin to their breast cancer patients to reduce risk of cancer spread and mortality,” said breast cancer expert Lori Pierce, MD, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

While the investigators did not collect data on aspirin dose, they noted that women who took aspirin regularly most likely took it for heart disease prevention; the typical dose for that purpose is 81 mg/day.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology

Stem cells used to repair breast post cancer ops


London: British surgeons are using stem-cell-enriched fat from women’s bodies to repair the damage of surgery following breast cancer operations and radiotherapy.

The procedure, which is being trialled at Leeds General Infirmary, so far appears to restore the softness and suppleness of breast tissues, as well as the painful aftermath of treatments.

Each year around 31,000 British women undergo operations to remove cancerous tissue which normally leaves an unsightly cavity in the breast. Some surgeons have already used fat transfer to repair the damage as well as reducing the size of the other breast to match the damaged one.

Scientists believe that fat enriched with stem cells reduces inflammation and helps maintain a healthy blood supply so that the body’s repair system works more efficiently.

Fears that the stem-cells might encourage more cancer cell proliferation have also proved groundless.

The cancer patient’s own fat cells are harvested and made into a concentrate which is reinjected. More than 90% of the fat survives the process.

Lead investigator and consultant plastic surgeon Eva Weiler-Mithoff says she is impressed with the results so far. “What is striking is the softness and suppleness the technique gives the skin and tissues. When I see these stem-cell-enhanced patients after three months, their skin is significantly softer.”

King Edward VII Hospital launches low-dose breast cancer scan

London: The King Edward VII hospital has become the first private medical centre to offer patient’s state-of-the-art low dose radiation digital mammography for the detection of breast cancer.

The Swedish-made Sectra scanner allowed the highest resolution breast scan at the lowest dose or radiation, compared to any other system currently in use.

The Sectra Microdose Digital X-ray system uses a digital capturing system which also means very high resolution images (24.96 megapixels) which can detect the smallest micro-calcifications in the breast. The radiation dose which the patient receives during the scan is 20% of that emmited by conventional machines.

The Sectra has already been subjected to a three-year clinical trial within the NHS, at the Coventry Breast Screening Unit at the Coventry and Warwick Hospital

According to doctors the benefits of even a conventional mammogramme outweigh the risks in detection of breast cancer. Women over the age of 50 are advised to have a scan every three years.

In the UK, experts estimate that 1 in every 14,000 women may suffer radiation induced breast cancer – that is approximately eight women each year.

But the low dose Sectra machine means that women can have more frequent scans so that any disease can be caught at an earlier stage.

The hospital’s Imaging Department is also able to give patients a copy of their scan on a CD after their mammogram.

For further information go to www.kingedwardvii and more detailed information on the Sectra at