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Can a Double Mastectomy Really Prevent Cancer?
Why Do We Worship Celebrities?
We are living in the age of celebrity: we obsess over them, gossip about them, and follow their every move. Some celebrities use their social clout to promote self-branded products like perfume and make even more money, but some use their influence to increase awareness of social issues. For example, in 2013, actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against breast cancer, a condition that runs in her family. According to Jolie, genetic testing gave her an 87 percent chance of developing the disease. Her announcement stirred considerable controversy in the media: some critics thought her treatment was too aggressive.
Regardless, her decision to go public about her medical experience ultimately increased public awareness about breast cancer. The Medical University of Graz in Austria had surveyed 1,000 women about breast cancer treatment before Jolie's announcement. After the news broke, they re-did the survey to see what--if any--effect it had on women's understanding of treatment options. The results of the first poll showed that 57.6 percent of women knew they could have reconstructive surgery using their own fatty tissue instead of synthetic breast implants. That number jumped to 68.9 percent in the second poll. Also, 40.5 percent of women in the first survey were aware that reconstruction could be done at the same time as the mastectomy. That number increased significantly--to 59.5 percent--in the second survey. A separate 2014 study done in the UK found that demand for genetic testing for breast cancer risk almost doubled after Jolie's announcement.
Celebrities giving health advice doesn't always have such a happy ending. Model/actress Jenny McCarthy was an outspoken proponent of the anti-vaccine movement, after she became convinced that vaccines were the cause of her son's autism. The connection between autism and vaccinations has been disproven by numerous scientific studies, and even McCarthy has rescinded her views, but confusion and misinformation continue to linger. A 2011 University of Michigan survey found that 24 percent of people place some value on a celebrity's opinion, and as we saw with the case of Jenny McCarthy, this can be dangerous, if not deadly.
The bottom line is: people should seek out expert opinions from people certified in their field. Have you found yourself taking advice from celebrities in the past? Let us know in the comments down below.
'Angelina Effect' Is Real: Actress Raised Breast Surgery Awareness (Live Science)
"Jolie Pitt made headlines in May 2013 was she announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy because she had tested positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene."
Jenny McCarthy, Vaccine Expert? A Quarter of Parents Trust Celebrities (Time)
"Jenny McCarthy is a former Playboy bunny, not an academic expert, a doctor or a vaccine researcher. Yet 24% of parents surveyed recently by the University of Michigan say they place "some trust" in information provided by celebrities such as McCarthy about the safety of vaccines."