The "Angelina effect" is saving the lives of Australian women at higher risk of breast cancer, according to experts.
Six months after American actress Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her high genetic risk of breast cancer, genetic clinics say the number of referrals remains high. And after an initial rush of "the worried well", most referrals were now for people at increased risk.
Research being presented at a Clinical Oncology Society of Australia meeting in Adelaide today shows referrals to cancer genetic clinics trebled in Australia immediately after Jolie's revelations and had remained at double the previous rate.
Mary-Anne Young, from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria, said about 80 per cent of referrals were related to a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. "These patients can now receive counselling and testing and discuss strategies to reduce their risk," she said.
COSA president Sandro Porceddu said about 5 per cent of the 15,000 breast and ovarian cancer cases diagnosed in Australia each year were because of an inherited gene.
"Being aware of a genetic risk means patients are more likely to either avoid cancer or detect it at an earlier stage when treatment is more likely to be successful," Professor Porceddu said.