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Health of entire families at risk through under-use of genetic testing
Date:6/7/2013

Paris, France: A new study of the use of genetic testing for cancer-causing mutations in affected families in France has found that its take-up is very low. Professor Pascal Pujol, Head of the Cancer Genetics Department, Montpellier University Hospital, Montpellier, France will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics tomorrow (Sunday) that analysis of data from the French National Cancer Institute covering the years 2003 to 2011 showed that, although there had been a steady increase in tests performed for the breast and ovarian cancer-causing mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2, this was not the case with the MMR mutation, implicated in Lynch syndrome (a form of colorectal cancer). Only a third of relatives of individuals with either mutation underwent genetic testing themselves.

"Given that such testing can provide many options to enable individuals to manage their cancer risk, it is vital to encourage awareness and acceptance among both the public and medical professionals", he will say. "For example, removal of the ovaries in women over 40 years old who carry a BRCA mutation decreases their overall cancer mortality by 20% and prophylactic mastectomy can reduce the chances of breast cancer in women carrying such a mutation by around 90%. Those who are unwilling to undergo prophylactic surgery can benefit from increased surveillance, with regular MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans. For familial colon cancer, screening by colonoscopy has been shown to decrease mortality. It is therefore regrettable that so few people seem to be aware of the benefits of genetic testing in families with a history of breast, ovarian, or colorectal cancer."

Professor Pujol and colleagues from cancer centres across France analysed 240134 consultations and 134652 genetic tests from patients referred for a predisposition to breast or colorectal cancer. They found a substantial increase in tests for BRCA1/2 from 2095 a year in 2003 to 7393 in 2011
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Contact: Mary Rice
mary.rice@riceconseil.eu
European Society of Human Genetics
Source:Eurekalert

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