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Study: Angelina Jolie Raised Breast Cancer Awareness

Photograph by Rob Latour/REX Shutterstock

The so-called "Angelina Effect" is, in fact, real.

According to a study out of Austria that was published yesterday in the journal Cancer, Angelina Jolie's decision to go public with her double mastectomy news increased women's awareness of the procedure, as well as their options for breast reconstructive surgery.

Jolie underwent the preventative mastectomy in May 2013, subsequently revealing in a New York Times op-ed piece that she had carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene that increased her risk for developing breast cancer. Jolie's own mother, Marcheline Bertrand, passed away from the disease at age 56.

The study showed that 92.6 percent of women polled said they knew that breast reconstruction surgery was possible after a mastectomy. That number is up from 88.9 percent of women who were polled one month before Jolie wrote her article.

Women in the study also learned that a woman's own fat tissue could be used in the reconstruction surgery and that the procedure can be performed in the same operation as the mastectomy. The study, out of the Medical University of Graz in Austria, conducted polling online and surveyed 1,000 Austrian women each before and after Jolie's piece in the Times.

"This is the first prospective report to prove the media's effect on the healthcare-related issue of breast cancer among the general public," Dr. David Lumenta, lead researcher and an assistant professor of plastic surgery, said in a statement.

Lumenta also noted the "serendipitous design" of the study, which allowed researchers to compare results from women before and after the actress went public with her mastectomy news.

While the actress wrote that her decision was personal and that women should be careful to consider all of their options, Jolie admitted that she wanted to raise general awareness.

"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy," Jolie wrote in her op-ed. "But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."

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