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Next Generation of Parents More Likely to Back Genetic Testing

THURSDAY Jan. 24, 2008 -- Even though most U.S. medical groups are opposed, many people support genetic testing of children for mutations that predispose them to developing breast and/or ovarian cancer later in life, a new study says.

Dr. Angela Bradbury, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and her colleagues interviewed 53 people (all parents) with BRCA mutations and 22 adult children of those parents. The researchers found that 40 percent of the parents and children supported genetic testing of minors, with half of those in favor only under certain circumstances.

Meanwhile, a majority of the adult children -- potential consumers of genetic testing -- supported the idea.

The study was published online this week in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

"The latter findings are interesting. 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," Bradbury said in a prepared statement.

While these results are worth noting, a larger study with a wider variety of participants needs to be conducted, said Bradbury, director of the Margaret Dyson Family Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase.

She noted that "there is increased 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."

Currently, most medical groups recommend against genetic testing of minors in the absence of medical benefit.

More information

The Genetics & Public Policy Center has more about genetic testing.

Posted: January 2008


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