The Pink Underside: The Commercialization of Medical Risk Assessment and Decision-Making Tools for Hereditary Breast Cancer Risk

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The growth of the Internet since the millennium has opened up a myriad of opportunities for education, particularly in medicine. Although those looking for health care information used to have to turn to a face-to-face doctor’s visit, an immense library of medical advice is now available at their fingertips. The BRCA genetic predispositions (mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes) which expose men and women to greater risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers can be researched extensively online. Several nonprofit organizations now offer online risk assessment and decision-making tools meant to supplement conversation with medical professionals, which in actuality are quickly replacing it. We argue here through a critical qualitative template analysis of several such tools that the discursive frameworks utilized are prone to fearmongering, commercialization, and questionable validity. Left unchecked, these assessment tools could do more harm than good in driving young women especially to take unnecessary extreme surgical action.

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