PHILADELPHIA -- Its an ethical dilemma with serious implications. Should children be tested for gene mutations that predispose them to developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer later in life" New research suggests the next generation of parents may support testing minors even when any steps to reduce that risk will be postponed until adulthood a finding that challenges current policies.
In the study published today online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics (Vol. 148C, Feb. 15, 2008 in print), researchers surveyed 53 BRCA mutation carriers who had children under 25 years of age at the time they received their genetic test results. In addition, 22 adult offspring of these parents were interviewed. The majority of parent participants were mothers (89%) although the offspring included both sons (45%) and daughters (55%). Interview subjects were recruited through the University of Chicago Cancer Risk Clinic.
Combining the responses of parents and offspring, 40% supported genetic testing of minors with half in favor only in certain circumstances. A majority of sons and daughters potential consumers of genetic testing, supported testing minors.
The latter finding is interesting, said lead author Angela Bradbury, M.D., of Fox Chase Cancer Center. It signals that the next generation may be more comfortable with genetic testing. This could be because their generation grew up with genetics, learning about it in school or from the news, unlike their parents. To them, genetic testing may not be exceptional.
A majority of professional groups recommend against the genetic testing of minors in the absence of medical benefit. Carriers of a BRCA 1/2 mutations will not necessarily develop cancer but their risk is increased. Men with an alteration, face an increased risk of developing prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer. Women with an alteration are at an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Risk reduction options
|Contact: Frank Hoke|
Fox Chase Cancer Center