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Complementary medicine use before and 1 year following genetic testing for BRCA1/2 mutations.

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  • 1Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, SM228, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



We explored change in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by unaffected women and cancer survivors from enrollment into a randomized BRCA1/2 testing program to CAM use 1 year following results disclosure.


A cohort of 243 high-risk women completed questionnaires at enrollment into a BRCA1/2 randomized trial and 1 year post results disclosure. Uses of several CAMs for cancer prevention were explored, including ingestible, behavioral, and physical modalities. Assessment of the change in CAM use from baseline to 1 year follow-up was conducted using a repeated self-administered questionnaire. Correlates of the number of CAMs used at 1 year were explored using multivariable linear regression models.


Among the subset of women who changed their CAM behavior from enrollment to 1 year following BRCA1/2 results disclosure, there was a significantly higher proportion who changed from no CAM use to CAM use among the overall cohort (P=0.01), among women without cancer at enrollment (P=0.003), among women found to be BRCA1/2 carriers (P=0.03), and among women randomized to the genetic counseling intervention arm of the study (P=0.009). Number of CAMs used at 1 year was positively associated with number of CAMs used at baseline, sunscreen use, and BRCA1/2 mutation status.


High-risk women who have received BRCA1/2 counseling and testing frequently adopt new CAM use in the first year after learning their genetic status. Mutation carriers frequently initiate CAM use after learning their genetic status as part of their cancer preventive regimen. Further studies are warranted to determine the efficacy of CAM-related strategies for cancer prevention.

(Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006;15(1):70-5).

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