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Many BRCA Carriers Tell Their Children of Cancer Risk

Few seek the advice of health care professionals before disclosing diagnosis

MONDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Half of parents diagnosed as carriers of the BRCA gene mutation have disclosed that diagnosis to their children, years before the children would be old enough to take recommended precautionary measures of their own, researchers report in the Aug. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Angela R. Bradbury, M.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues conducted telephone interviews with 42 BRCA mutation carriers (88 percent female) from 32 unique families who were parents of 86 children under the age of 25.

Children were a mean age of 17 to 18 years when they heard the diagnosis. Female and male children were equally likely to be told. Nearly half of disclosing parents said their children had reacted to the disclosure negatively, with 22 percent reporting concern or anxiety and 26 percent reporting more severe emotional reactions, such as crying or fear. Only 5 percent of parents who disclosed their diagnosis reported that they had relied on the advice of a health professional in deciding to do so.

"The impact of this communication and the long-term psychological impact on these children are important areas for future research," the authors conclude. "A better understanding of how children conceptualize genetic risk can help define a role for health care professionals and genetic counseling."

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