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Rachel LubitzIn a personal essay published in the Tuesday New York Times, actress Angelina Jolie announced that from February until April of this year, she underwent a preventative double mastectomy. In a piece entitled "My Medical Choice," Jolie reveals her reasoning was that she carries an inherited cancer gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases the chances of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007.
Jolie is not the first public figure to speak from personal experience on disease prevention. Several other actors and athletes — from Magic Johnson to Giuliana Rancic — have shared their health scares and advocated for awareness.
• In 1989, when Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry was 22, she slipped into a coma on set and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She later learned that was a misdiagnosis and that she actually had Type 2. In April, Berry became the first national ambassador for Diabetes Aware, an organization dedicated to informing the public of the causes and effects of the disease.
• In 1991, Magic Johnson announced his retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers because of a diagnosis of HIV. His groundbreaking statement helped remove some of the stigma around the virus and increase support for testing. He founded the Magic Johnson Foundation, which, according to its website, works to develop programs and support community-based organizations to address the educational, health and social needs of urban communities.
• Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991 at age 30, Michael J. Fox went public with his illness in 1998 to advocate for its prevention. He founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation to help advance research in curing the disease, which includes embryonic stem-cell studies.
• Grammy-winning singer Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 at age 43. To raise prevention awareness, she is now the spokeswoman for the Liv Breast Self-Examination Kit, which assists women with early detection.
• In 1993, "Shaft" actor Richard Roundtree was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 51. He kept quiet until he had been cancer-free for five years. He now tours the country to raise awareness about male breast cancer.
• After her husband died of colon cancer in 1998, Katie Couric became a spokeswoman for cancer awareness. To get the word out for cancer testing, Couric underwent a colonoscopy on-air in March 2000 on the "Today" show. According to a 2003 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, "Couric's televised colon cancer awareness campaign was associated with an increase in colonoscopy use." In October 2005, Couric broadcasted her own mammogram on "Today" as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
• Daytime talk-show host Montel Williams went public with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1999 after he had been suffering from sudden constant pain.
• "The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was diagnosed with celiac disease after falling ill during her stint on "Survivor: The Australian Outback" in 2001. In 2009, Hasselbeck published "The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide" to provide guidance to those on how to cook healthfully while also dealing with the food-restrictive disease.
• Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at age 43. After undergoing chemotherapy, she famously performed bald at the 2005 Grammy Awards. She appeared with several other celebrity cancer survivors in the 2010 breast cancer documentary "1 a Minute" that raised awareness and helped raise money in hopes of finding a cure.
• In 2006, Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44. A well-known advocate for disease awareness, she lobbied Congress to pass the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act.
• In 2006, "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40. She became an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
• In 2007 at age 46, "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump during a self-exam. She underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy and made a full recovery, but she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which was thought to have been a result of radiation from her treatment. Be the Match Registry, a nonprofit run by the National Marrow Donor Program, experienced an 1,800 percent spike in donors the day Roberts announced her diagnosis of MDS. She continued as a host on "GMA" throughout her illness and chemotherapy to raise awareness and hope for a cure.
• In 2008, then-36-year-old "Up All Night" actress Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her recovery, Applegate founded Right Action for Women, an organization that helps raise awareness and fund screenings for uninsured women.
• Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced in 2009 that he had a form of leukemia. His disease, Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia, is a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He now serves as a spokesman for Novartis Oncology in an effort to raise awareness.
• "E! News" host Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed in 2011 with breast cancer. Then 36 years old, she had a double masectomy. Her cancer was discovered when she had a mammogram in preparation for a third round of in-vitro fertilization treatments, a process highly publicized in her reality show with husband Bill Rancic, "Giuliana & Bill."
• After suffering kidney failure in 2012, television host and actor Nick Cannon revealed to People magazine that he was diagnosed with a lupus-like autoimmune disease. In 2012, Cannon started chronicling his daily life while dealing with the disease in a Web documentary entitled "Ncredible Health Hustle" in an effort to raise awareness of preventive measures and cures.
• In 2012, actress Kathy Bates, then 64, revealed that she had a double masectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer that year. Bates also had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003. She has appeared as a spokeswoman for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance in a series of public service announcements.
• In March, Valerie Harper was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The 73-year-old actress, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," has been a vocal advocate of disease awareness ever since.