Knowing Maternal BRCA Carrier Status Does Not Harm Child QOL

Adolescent and young adult children of BRCA+ mothers more concerned about cancer, had stronger beliefs about genetic risk
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THURSDAY, July 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Disclosing maternal BRCA carrier status does not adversely affect quality of life or influence the lifestyle behavior of adolescent and young adult (AYA) children, according to a study published online July 21 in Pediatrics.

Glynnis A. McDonnell, Ph.D., from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues examined AYA children's long-term psychosocial and behavioral adaptation to disclosure of maternal BRCA-positive carrier status (BRCA+). A total of 272 AYAs were enrolled: 76.1 and 17.3 percent of their mothers were breast/ovarian cancer survivors and BRCA+, respectively.

The researchers observed no variation in AYAs' cancer risk behavior (tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity) and psychological distress levels by maternal status. Compared with AYAs of mothers without cancer, AYAs of cancer-surviving mothers believed themselves to be at elevated risk for and more knowledgeable about cancer in bivariate analyses. AYAs with mothers who were BRCA+ were more concerned about cancer, held stronger beliefs about genetic risk, and placed an elevated value on learning about genetics. Maternal cancer history, but not BRCA+, remained associated with AYAs' greater perceptions of cancer risk and knowledge about cancer and its causes in adjusted models.

"These data indicate that it is safe and appropriate for mothers to share their BRCA genetic test results with AYA children," the authors write. "These data further suggest that early disclosure of maternal BRCA+ results to AYAs about hereditary cancer and familial risk could set the stage for more open and ongoing communication about genetic testing."

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