We already know that many adults who choose to undergo genetic testing do it for their childrens sake, so its not a far stretch to imagine that parents might grapple with whether or not their children should be tested, explained Bradbury, director of the Margaret Dyson Family Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase.
Bradbury says while the results are interesting, they are exploratory and need to be reproduced in a larger and broader sample. Nonetheless, there is urgency for more research because current policies advising against genetic testing for minors may not hold up.
Increased demand and availability of testing dictates a need to better understand the risks and benefits of early counseling and/or testing, she said.
Proponents of testing minors have argued there is harm in uncertainty and withholding information and the potential for later misdiagnosis. Other arguments in favor of testing include the fostering of autonomous decision making abilities. Additionally, many argue that parents and their children are more likely than health care professionals to most appropriately asses the risks and benefits of testing an individual child.
Those opposed to testing argue that the development of mature decision-making is variable during adolescence and letting parents make testing decisions for their minor children violates the future autonomy of offspring. Others cite potential adverse psychological consequences to early testing including increased disease-related distress and anxiety, distortion of family relationships, interference in normal development of self-concept and feelings of unworthiness.
Despite this debate, empirical data to support either argument are lacking, especially in the setting of families affected by BRCA mutations, Bradbury concluded.
|Contact: Frank Hoke|
Fox Chase Cancer Center