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From the small screen to breast cancer screening: examining the effects of a television storyline on awareness of genetic risk factors
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  • Alternative Title:
    J Commun Healthc
  • Description:

    The topic of breast cancer genetics entered the public discourse following Angelina Jolie’s 2013 announcement that she carries the BRCA1 mutation and underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy to reduce her breast cancer risk. A year prior to Jolie’s announcement, the teen drama 90210 ran an eight-episode story arc on the BRCA gene mutations. This study focuses on an evaluation of the impact of this particular media text within the broader context of research on the persuasive effects of entertainment narratives (i.e. entertainment education).


    The evaluation consisted of two complementary studies of adult women: a pre-test/post-test study using a panel sample of regular television viewers who were directed to watch a particular episode (Study 1), and a cross-sectional study using a convenience sample of frequent 90210 viewers (Study 2).


    In both studies, storyline exposure was associated with increased knowledge (familiarity with the BRCA gene, knowledge about mastectomy). Study 1 additionally saw evidence of increased fears regarding the consequences of the BRCA gene and intentions to talk to a doctor. In Study 2, the number of episodes viewed was positively related to both knowledge and behavior (finding out about one’s family history of breast cancer).


    These findings suggest that despite unprecedented changes in the ways audiences engage with and consume entertainment media, television narratives remain a powerful method of educating viewers about health risks and inspiring them to take action.

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