Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Disparities in Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast Cancer in the United States

By: Joseph Fanelli
Posted: Friday, June 22, 2018

Three-quarters of genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk by people in the United States is for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), according to findings published in a research letter in JAMA Oncology. Kimberly K. Childers, MS, LCGC, of the Center for Clinical Genetic and Genomics at Providence Heath & Services Southern California, Los Angeles, and colleagues, also found a large disparity between men and women undergoing testing for hereditary cancer, although carrier rates seem to be equivalent between men and women.

“Cancer genetic testing seems to reach a broad geographic and sociodemographic population,” Ms. Childers and colleagues noted. “However, there remain underrepresented groups, including Hispanics, the uninsured, noncitizens, and those with less education.”

The investigators acquired data from a 2015 U.S. National Health Interview Survey, of which 378 adults reported a history of genetic testing for cancer, representing 2,498,842 people. Among sociodemographic groups, a lower proportion of Hispanics (10% vs. 16%), the uninsured (2% vs. 10%), noncitizens (4% vs. 8%), and those with less education (high school or General Education Development diploma; 30% vs. 44%) underwent testing.

Furthermore, almost three times as many women received genetic testing as men (73% vs. 27%), and unaffected men underwent testing at half the rate of unaffected women. In addition, there appeared to be no differences between unaffected men and women in terms of reported family history.

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