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Med J Aust. 2003 Nov 3;179(9):480-3.

"Cancer in the family" and genetic testing: implications for life insurance.

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Familial Cancer Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, VIC, Australia.


The potential for discrimination when applying for insurance can be of concern for individuals with a family history of cancer or of a genetic disorder and who are considering genetic counselling or genetic testing. The actual incidence of "genetic discrimination", however, is not known, despite considerable media coverage of this issue. The clinical details required by insurers have received less attention. We obtained primary application and personal statement forms used by 21 different underwriters of voluntary life insurance and found substantial differences in the information requested about family history and genetic testing. All insurance applications, however, contained a duty of disclosure that would require revealing the result, if known by the applicant, of a genetic test in a family member. Therefore, decisions made by family members can affect insurance applications, and people considering genetic testing may also need to consider the implications of the results for other family members. Health practitioners should balance the potential benefits of appropriate genetic testing against potential restriction to life and income-protection insurance when advising people about genetic testing.

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