Black Women Less Likely To Receive Genetic Testing To Screen for Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds
White women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are five times as likely to receive genetic counseling for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations as black women with similar family histories, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of American Medical Association, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (McCullough, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/13). Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center over three years questioned 408 women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer who received treatment at Penn Health System. About 22% of black women interviewed for the study received genetic counseling, compared with about 60% of white women.
According to the AP/Contra Costa Times, breast cancer "generally is more common" among white women, but data indicate that black and white women have similar incidences of BRCA mutations, which can indicate an increased risk for cancers in some women (AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/13). In addition, the study found that in a control group more black women than white women viewed their risk of breast cancer as "lower than average."
The study and an accompanying editorial indicated that the disparity in genetic screening could be attributed partly to low utilization of preventive care among minority groups because of lack of accessibility and financial barriers. Michael Hall, a geneticist at the University of Chicago and author of the accompanying editorial, said, "The average African-American woman underestimates her risk of breast cancer, and African Americans are on the whole less aware of genetic testing technology as a means of assessing personal risk" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/13).
Katrina Armstrong, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study's researchers, said, "There's a catch-22 involved here," adding, "People are not receiving genetic counseling because there is not enough information about how frequently these mutations occur in the African-American community" (Ricks, Long Island Newsday, 4/13). An abstract of the study is available online. A selection from the accompanying editorial also is available online.