Factors influencing and modifying the decision to pursue genetic testing for skin cancer risk

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Abstract

Background:

Across cancers, the decision to pursue genetic testing is influenced more by subjective than objective factors. However, skin cancer, which is more prevalent, visual, and multifactorial than many other malignancies, may offer different motivations for pursuing such testing.

Objectives:

The primary objective was to determine factors influencing the decision to receive genetic testing for skin cancer risk. A secondary objective was to assess the impact of priming with health questions on the decision to receive testing.

Methods:

We distributed anonymous online surveys through ResearchMatch.org to assess participant health, demographics, motivations, and interest in pursuing genetic testing for skin cancer risk. Two surveys with identical questions but different question ordering were used to assess the secondary objective.

Results:

We received 3783 responses (64% response rate), and 85.8% desired testing. Subjective factors, including curiosity, perceptions of skin cancer, and anxiety, were the most statistically significant determinants of the decision to pursue testing (P < .001), followed by history of sun exposure (odds ratio 1.85, P < .01) and history of skin cancer (odds ratio 0.5, P = .01). Age and family history of skin cancer did not influence this decision. Participants increasingly chose testing if first queried about health behaviors (P < .0001).

Limitations:

The decision to pursue hypothetical testing may differ from in-clinic decision-making. Self-selected, online participants may differ from the general population. Surveys may be subject to response bias.

Conclusion:

The decision to pursue genetic testing for skin cancer is primarily determined by subjective factors, such as anxiety and curiosity. Health factors, including skin cancer history, also influenced decision-making. Priming with consideration of objective health factors can increase the desire to pursue testing.

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