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Eur J Hum Genet. 2009 Jul;17(7):872-80. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.33. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Factors influencing intrafamilial communication of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic information.

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Centre de recherche en droit public, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


What factors influence intrafamilial communication of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) genetic risk information? Such information can have health implications for individuals who undergo genetic testing, but it can also have implications for their blood relatives. This literature review adopts an ecological model to summarize factors at the individual, familial, and community levels, as well as cross cutting factors relating to the complexity of HBOC genetic information and responsibilities that this information can give rise to. These factors are complex and may result in conflicting senses of responsibility. Faced with the task of communicating HBOC genetic information, the response may be to attempt to balance the potential negative impact of the information on the well-being of the informee (eg, can s/he handle this information?) against the potential health benefit that the knowledge could result in. This balancing represents an effort to reconcile conflicting approaches to protecting family members, and is a moral dilemma. This review sheds light on the factors that contribute to resolve this dilemma.

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