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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1999 Apr;8(4 Pt 2):369-75.

Attitudes and interest in genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility in diverse groups of women in western Washington.

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  • 1Department of Medical History, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-7120, USA.



This paper examines the knowledge, opinions, and predictors of interest in genetic testing for breast cancer risk in a demographically diverse group of women in western Washington who participated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of breast cancer risk counseling methods.


Four groups of women were surveyed, all with some family history of breast cancer: (a) 307 white women; (b) 36 African-American women; (c) 87 lesbian/bisexual women; and (d) 113 Ashkenazi Jewish women. As part of the baseline questionnaire for the RCT, participants were asked about their familiarity with genetic testing for breast cancer risk, their interest in such testing and opinions of it, and actions they anticipated based on test results.


Women in all four groups favored ready access to testing, believed the decision to be tested should be a personal choice, believed that genetic test results should stay confidential, and were not greatly concerned that this might not be possible. Women anticipated using such genetic test results to increase the frequency of various breast cancer screening methods (in all four groups, > 69% would increase mammogram frequency, > 85% would increase clinician exam, and > 92% would increase breast self exam). Women overwhelmingly rejected prophylactic surgery as a preventive measure (in all > 80% probably or definitely would not consider it). Significant predictors of interest in genetic testing for cancer risk included perceived risk, cancer worry, and beliefs about access to testing.


These data will be of interest to health care providers, payers, public health professionals, legislators, and others as they consider issues associated with population testing for susceptibility to common diseases such as breast cancer.

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