CANCER: The great indifference to hereditary risk

CANCER: The great indifference to hereditary risk

In this study, it is precisely the risk of hereditary cancer – of the mother – of the breast and the ovary induced by the mutation of genes of breast cancer (BRCA) in the mother. Children inherit one copy of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes from each parent. Testing positive for a mutation in one of these genes (BRCA+) may have implications for cancer risk in children.

A great indifference to the risk of hereditary cancer

The study therefore recruited mothers who had undergone BRCA genetic testing 1 to 5 years before inclusion and whose children were aged 12 to 24 years. The mothers had obtained genetic counseling and testing at various cancer centers. Of the children enrolled, 17% had mothers with BRCA+ mutations. The majority of mothers were cancer survivors. The team assessed the children’s lifestyle behaviors. This analysis finds that:

  • there is no difference in the health risk behaviors of offspring, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of physical activity, according to the BRCA status of their mothers;
  • more generally, maternal BRCA status does not appear to be linked to emotional distress or particular anxiety of children in the face of cancer.

Rather than indifference or recklessness, researchers speak of “resilience”

children of BRCA+ mothers, especially teenagers and young adults who have grown up with a family history of cancer and some have learned to cope. Lead author Dr. Kenneth P. Tercyak, Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics comments on these findings emphasizing the importance of

“to make young people aware of the hereditary risk of cancer and the interest of knowing more about the medical history of their family”.

Although in this study,

  • most teens and young adults whose mothers were cancer survivors considered themselves to be at higher risk and more concerned about cancer;
  • young women whose mothers are cancer survivors perceive themselves to be among those most at risk of developing breast/ovarian cancer;
  • children of mothers with BRCA+ mutations are more concerned about the possibility of their mother developing breast or ovarian cancer.

The importance of a parent-child dialogue on family history and genetic risks: the families that communicate best are those that benefit from support and genetic counseling from healthcare professionals. One of the goals of this counseling strategy is to foster open, individualized conversations with loved ones about cancer risk, screening and risk reduction, and genetic testing choices.

So the team is now working to develop interventions to help mothers with BRCA mutations make informed choices about when and how to share cancer risk information with their adolescent daughters. and young adults.

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