It’s the resolution-making time of year, and many of us are falling back on the traditional favorites. The most popular resolution people make is to lose weight. However, we may see a spike in women resolving to have genetic testing done to determine risk of breast cancer. Why? Because Angelina Jolie did it first.
A study was recently published in Preventive Medicine in which researchers from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, the University of North Carolina and the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that celebrities publically discussing their cancer diagnosis can have a profound effect on the general public.
Specifically, this study focused on celebrity cancer diagnosis and people who smoke. The study found that the media coverage that results from a celebrity cancer diagnosis prompts more people to look up information on how to quit.
Though New Year’s Day and World No Tobacco Day are popular times for smoking cessation research, it’s celebrities who drive the most people to stop smoking.
The study looked at former Brazilian President Lula da Silva’s case. He was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in October 2011 and attributed his cancer to a long-time smoking habit.
By looking through Google News archives, the research team behind the study found news coverage of quitting smoking increased by at least 500 percent after the diagnosis was revealed. Google searches related to quitting smoking also increased, by 67 percent.
“Lula’s announced cancer diagnosis, though tragic, was potentially the greatest smoking cessation-promoting even in Brazilian history,” said professor John W. Ayers, leader of the researchers.
“Interest in quitting smoking, as indicated by Google searches, reached its highest recorded level after Lula’s diagnosis, even when compared to traditional cessation awareness events such as New Year’s Day or World No Tobacco Day.”
Though the study takes place on a limited scale, it has promising implications for positive celebrity emphasis. Another member of the research team, Seth Noar, said, “This study is the first to demonstrate that celebrity diagnoses can prompt the public to engage in behaviors that prevent cancer.”
That much was demonstrated earlier this year Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone preventative testing to determine her breast cancer risk. After her announcement in May, there was a significant rise in the number of women requesting genetic testing for breast cancer markers.
Though celebrity cancer announcements are tragic, they can bring about positive change. That’s something we don’t have to wait for the beginning of a new year to make happen.