Awareness of breast cancer genetics and interest in predictive genetic testing: a survey of a southern Italian population

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BackgroundBefore starting a molecular screening program for breast cancer risk and in order to develop ad hoc educational strategies, a population survey in Apulia, Italy, was performed to gather information on women's awareness of breast cancer genetics and their attitude toward genetic testing for breast cancer risk.Patients and methodsA consecutive series of 677 healthy women with or without a family history of breast cancer, who attended the outpatient clinics of Lega Italiana per la Lotta contro i Tumori in Bari, Italy, for preventive visits, were asked to complete a 20-item questionnaire on socio-demographics, risk perception, psychological characteristics and interest in genetic testing for breast cancer predisposing genes.ResultsMost women (77%) reported knowing something about the genetics of breast cancer; only 7% of the women were not interested at all in genetic testing. These figures were not significantly different for women with or without a family history of breast cancer. The two most frequently cited reasons for being interested in genetic testing, accounting for more than 50% of collected responses, were ‘to learn about your children's risk’ and ‘to help advance research’. On multiple logistic regression analysis, only older age [odds ratio (OR) 1.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3–2.9] was associated with women's knowledge of genetic testing. Moreover, marital status (OR 4.0; 95% CI 1.1–14.6) and thinking of cancer (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.0–4.7) independently predicted the interest in having genetic testing.ConclusionsSouthern Italian women seem highly interested in genetic testing for breast cancer risk. However, their expectations mainly regard their concerns about their children or their altruistic need to help research rather than the idea of a direct clinical benefit. The great interest of the women in genetic testing probably reflects their inappropriate knowledge of the information that genetic testing can provide for breast cancer risk analysis.

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