Researchers, exploring how families communicate genetic test results, have concluded that men are unaware of the risk that they are more prone to developing cancer, if their mothers, sisters or daughters test positive for a cancer-causing gene mutation (BRCA).
Just like their female relatives, fathers, sons or brothers can also carry a mutation in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.
Male carriers of these mutations, more commonly called the 'breast cancer genes,' are more susceptible to 14 percent lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer as well as a 6 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer
The study at Fox Chase Cancer Center was led by Mary B. Daly, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Population Science at Fox Chase.
'Despite these health implications, we have found a lack of understanding of genetic test results among men in these families,' said Daly.
The researchers interviewed 24 men, each with a first-degree female relative who tested positive for having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
In the study, the women reported telling the results of their genetic test result to the male relative; however, only 18 of the men remembered receiving the results.
Daly said that their findings demonstrated a level of cognitive and emotional distance experienced by men from the genetic testing process.
Almost half of the men (seven) who remembered receiving results did not believe that the test results augmented their own risk of cancer.
Only five (28 percent) were successfully able to identify their chance of being a mutation carrier.
'We devote a significant amount of time learning how best to communicate genetic test results to women, but this study shows we also need to help them communicate the information to their male family members who may be impacted by the test results,' concluded Daly.
Around 14 of the 18 men who recalled receiving the results showed any interest in the meaning of the test result, but most (11) directed their concern toward other family members, primarily daughters and sisters.
'Based on the responses, we were not surprised to learn that the level of interest in genetic testing was relatively low. Of the six men who did express interest, half said they'd do it for their children's sake,' said Daly
The study was presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.