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Little Counseling for Males Carrying Cancer Mutation

Men with BRCA1/2 mutations may avoid counseling and deny cancer risk

FRIDAY, Mar. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Many male carriers of BRCA1/2 mutations do not seek genetic counseling, even though the mutations predispose them to breast and other cancers, according to a review in the February issue of the Journal of Genetic Counseling.

Although men with BRCA1/2 mutations have a higher risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma, Mary B. Daly, M.D., Ph.D., from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, notes that most men with family members carrying BRCA1/2 mutations do not pursue genetic counseling. Male members in these families are often excluded from communication of test results, and men themselves often prefer to avoid counseling and deny cancer risk.

Daly also notes that differences in social roles play a part in these differences, since women are traditionally considered the primary caregiver in the family and are more likely to be proactive about protecting the health of themselves and their family. In contrast, society's expectations of masculinity may lead men to engage in risky behaviors and avoid routine health care visits. She also notes that BRCA1/2 mutations are predominantly associated with female cancers, so male carriers may think that genetic counseling has little relevance to them.

"To date, the majority of men in BRCA1/2 mutation positive families do not pursue genetic counseling or testing, and may thus forgo both the opportunity to make appropriate changes in their health practices, as well as the chance to pass on valuable cancer risk information to their children," Daly concludes. "Genetic counselors are in a position to inform all at-risk family members of the broad relevance of genetic risk information within the family."

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