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'The Jolie effect': how celebrity health news impacts our medical choices

Photo credit SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo credit SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

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Just a couple of years ago, a lot of people would never have thought to shell out the bucks needed to take a genetic test. Then along came a New York Times op-ed by Angeline Jolie. 

It was published in May 2013 with the title "My Medical Choice."

The headline refers to Jolie's decision to undergo both a radical mastectomy and a hysterectomy. She made that choice after she took a genetic test revealing she was carrying a gene that put her at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

That editorial had a profound effect. According to a study published in the medical journal BMJ, Jolie's piece may have spurred $14 million worth of unnecessary medical tests. 

For more on the effect celebrities can have on our health choices, Alex Cohen spoke with Anupam Jena, one of the authors of the study and a professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.